Singer Mia Zapata will be forever young to loved ones and fans who saw her and her band The Gits perform — but it was never supposed to be that way.
In 2003, Zapata was supposed to be preparing to celebrate her 37th birthday, perhaps working on another album with The Gits or embarking on a solo career. Maybe she would have been enjoying recognition as a great rock musician and poet.
Instead, the 10th anniversary of Zapata's murder is approaching and her friends, family and fans are expecting the suspect recently arrested and accused in her killing to be extradited from Florida to Seattle sometime this month.
And though they take solace in the long-awaited break in the case, the arrest has opened old wounds. Zapata's friends — and the Seattle community that thought she and The Gits were on the cusp of stardom — cannot think about Zapata without wondering what could have been.
"You look around and you see friends of Mia, all of us, getting older, still doing our thing, making music, writing poetry. I think Mia still would have been doing her thing," said Cristien Storm, a Seattle poet and activist and friend of Zapata. "And that's part of the tragedy of it all. We will never see Mia grow as an artist, grow older. She was cut down as she was in the middle of something. Her life was shortened way before it was supposed to be."
DNA Heats Up Cold Trail
On July 7, 1993, Zapata was killed as she walked home from a bar. Investigators found her body in a crucifix position, discarded on a Seattle alley, beaten, raped and strangled with the drawstrings of a Gits sweatshirt she wore that night.
Zapata's slaying baffled police for years — there were no witnesses, no suspects. Police were not able to make an arrest in the case until this past January, when DNA linked Florida fisherman Jesus Mezquia to the slaying. Detectives from the King County cold case squad had submitted the DNA profile of evidence from saliva found on Zapata to the National DNA Index System in November.
Mezquia, a 48-year-old resident of Marathon, Fla., had submitted a DNA sample as part of a previous, unrelated arrest in Florida, and this led to the apparent match and arrest.
According to the criminal complaint against Mezquia, in July 1993, he lived within walking distance of the area where Zapata was killed. However, Mezquia has denied even knowing Zapata, much less killing her. He could not explain to investigators how his DNA wound up on her body.
A Heartbroken, Hopeful Community
News of Mezquia's arrest brought relief and subdued toasts to the Seattle bars that were once Zapata's stomping grounds and the fans who followed her and The Gits. Though surprised by the arrest, Zapata's friends never gave up hope that there would be a break in the case.
"You can't do something as horrible as that and ultimately not get caught," said Steve Moriarity, drummer of The Gits, who also led an independent investigation of Zapata's death. "I just believe in karma that way."