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Mia Zapata’s Killer Has Died. Peers Remember the Gits Singer’s ‘True Independent Soul’

Jesus Mezquia, the man convicted of the 1993 murder of popular Seattle musician, died in a Washington hospital in January

The Gits in 1993.

Christine Sievanen

Jesus Mezquia, the man convicted of murdering Seattle musician Mia Zapata, died in a hospital in Pierce County, Washington, on January 21st. He was 66 years old. His death was confirmed by the Washington State Department of Corrections, which declined to provide a cause of death, citing state privacy laws. Mezquia had been serving a 36-year sentence, which was overturned in August 2005, then subsequently reinstated by the state Court of Appeals in January 2009.

“Mia Zapata was an extraordinary human being. She was a beloved friend, a gifted songwriter, musician, visual artist, and performer,” her three surviving bandmates — guitarist Andy Kessler, bassist Matt Dresdner, and drummer Steve Moriarty — said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “Rather than focusing on her death, we prefer to remember her friendship, talent, humor, and the incredible art and music she left to the world.” (Via Moriarty, Zapata’s family declined to comment for this story.)

“I was actually thinking for years how I would react when he was released,” Moriarty tells Rolling Stone. “He affected a lot of people in my life in a very negative way for many years. He was a profoundly distracting influence on my life for the last 25 years. Good riddance.”

Mezquia’s death marks an end to one of the darkest and most tragic episodes in rock music. On July 7th, 1993, Zapata, the lead singer of the punk band the Gits, was raped and murdered. She had spent most of the night before at the Comet Tavern, then went to a friend’s apartment in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood before leaving on foot at around 2 a.m. Her body was found at 3:20 a.m. on a deserted street less than two miles away from the bar. She was 27 years old.

Her life story and murder have been the subject of episodes of the Investigation Discovery Channel series Dead of Night, Unsolved Mysteries, 48 Hours, and the documentary The Gits. The case went unsolved for nearly a decade until Mezquia’s arrest in 2003.