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Mia Zapata: may she finally rest in peace

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Mia Zapata was the neo punk diva of her time. Her band The Gits shared the bill with Ween, 7 Year Bitch, Poison Idea, Tad, and Nirvana. The band was in its prime with Zapata as their lead singer. A tragically small number of people ever heard her sing because she died in the chrysalis of her life; raped and killed by a stranger at 27.

“If you can imagine running your finger around the rim of the most beautiful set of crystal glasses with sandpaper, that was Mia’s voice,” said Tim Sommers, an A&R guy for Atlantic said in 1995. “I have little doubt that she was the woman vocalist of the 1990s.”

Through the lens of the songs she wrote, ou have to wonder how many gouls Zapata had already faced down before she died. Given how frequently women are raped, maybe it’s not so shocking a thought. Still Mia’s work had an overlay of premonition-a sense of knowing her own fate-a sense she shares with contemporaries like Jeff Buckley and Elliot Smith.

While violence against women was a subject punk bands like Fugazi tackled in songs like “Suggestion,” Mia Zapata chased rapists down and pummeled them with her firehose of vocal power. Mia howls out “I’m full of rage” in “Spear And The Magic Helmet,” a song about her friend’s rape, and it’s even spookier since her demise.

Mia Zapata was raped and strangled near the Comet Tavern in Seattle in 1993. Last week the small music community learned that the man who robbed them of Mia, faces 22-30 years in prison for the guilty verdict he received on Friday 3.25.04, eleven years after her death.

Jesus Mezquia was found guilty of murdering Mia Zapata after DNA linked him to the death. The case remained unsolved until a year and a half ago when DNA taken from bite wounds on Zapata’s body, and preserved were submitted to the state crime lab and matched to Mezquia. The break in the case — one of the area’s most notorious unsolved homicides – came after Seattle police decided to again run DNA evidence from the scene through a national databank of convicted criminals’ genetic profiles, and came up with Mezquia.

Seattle-based organization Home Alive was established in the wake of Zapata’s death. Co-founded by Zapata’s friend Maria Mabra and 7 Year Bitch drummer Valerie Agnew, Home Alive provides women with affordable self-defense training and raises awareness about violence against women.

Mia Zapata is buried at Cave Hill cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky, one of the places where she grew up. She welcomes visitors.

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About Jennie Rose

  • Eric Olsen

    Jennie, great job on this – sorry I am late getting to it. Thanks!

  • Douglas

    Viva Zapata!!

    If you lived up here, the depth of the statement would be understood. The organizations, awareness, community services, etc. that has evolved from her horrible death are amazing.

    Anyway, Viva Zapata!


  • Abbey

    I’m shocked and horrified that Mia’s killer had his sentence overturned. I thought she finally got to rest in peace.

  • katie

    it was overturned?? why?? that’s awful.

    viva zapata.

  • Rush Shukla

    Her murder was such a brutal and senseless crime that it defies any reason to understand it. Sadly there are men amongst us that do this sort of thing to women and it won’t end. This beast should have been destroyed and its a crime he isn’t. He was a dirty Cuban dreg out of Castro’s jail and one has only to blame Carter for the Mariel Boatlift that brought so many dangerous psychopaths to the US.
    Society failed Mia. Her own country failed to protect her.