If you’re unfamiliar with Mia Zapata and the Gits, you’ve yet to hear one of punk rock’s saddest tales. Zapata, the band’s frontwoman, was brutally attacked at the band’s height in 1993, and her killer wasn’t sentenced until February 2009. The band’s story is now being told in The Gits, a documentary from Jab Films that recounts the group’s rise and sudden fall against the backdrop of Seattle’s punk movement of the early 1990s, which arose at the same time Nirvana and Alice in Chains were shining a national spotlight on grunge.
Zapata’s body was found on July 7, 1993, but she was last seen leaving a nightclub the night before wearing headphones. Police suspect she never saw her attacker coming, and her beaten, raped and strangled body was found in a Christ-like pose, which led many to initially believe the killing was ritualistic. (The case was examined in a 48 Hours Mystery, and CBS has more info here.) Not long after, the Gits disbanded, never recovering from the loss of such a charismatic singer. Zapata has been cited as an influence for bands like 7 Year Bitch and the Distillers, and for years, her brutal killing went unsolved.
Ten years later, technological advancements helped bring Zapata’s killer to justice. In 2003, DNA extracted from a saliva sample left on Zapata’s body was linked to Jesus Mezquia, a Florida fisherman who’d been charged with burglary and domestic abuse a year prior. He was convicted by a jury of Zapata’s death in 2004, and is serving 36 years behind bars.
While touching in a very different way than Anvil! The Story of Anvil, The Gits is a heartrending reminder of what could have been, and what truly was one of the most dangerous bands to emerge from Seattle — by way of Kentucky — during the ’90s. Right now, you can watch the entire film, from start to finish, over at Snag Films.