Sunday, January 12, 2003

Arrest made in '93 killing of Ky. singer

By Gene Johnson
The Associated Press

SEATTLE - A 48-year-old Florida man has been arrested in the 1993 slaying of rising punk-rock star Mia Zapata, the Seattle Police Department said Saturday.

Investigators arrested Jesus C. Mezquia in the Miami area late Friday night after DNA evidence linked him to the death, department spokeswoman Deanna Nollette said. Detectives believed him to be a resident of Marathon, in the Florida Keys.

Ms. Zapata was a Louisville native who attended Antioch College. The 27-year-old lead singer of The Gits was last seen alive shortly after 2 a.m. July 7, 1993, after a night of hard drinking in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. She was strangled with the drawstring of her Gits sweatshirt, and her body was left 1.6 miles away on the curb of 24th Avenue South. Her arms were outstretched, her legs crossed at the ankle, as if she had been crucified.

"I'm still in disbelief," said bandmate Steve Moriarty. "It's something I've been beating my head about for the past 10 years.

"Without being grandiose, I would say she was one of the best rock lyricists that ever lived. She was kind of a blues singer who had a punk-rock temperament, but she was also just a really brilliant person. She was an intuitive, compassionate woman, a poet and painter."

Last year, Seattle police submitted evidence to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for DNA testing. Initially, no match was found. But in December, a DNA profile entered into the National DNA Index System matched the sample. The profile was that of Mr. Mezquia, a felon in Florida, authorities said.

Police said investigation revealed that Mr. Mezquia, then 39, had been in the Seattle area at the time of the killing.

Ms. Zapata was little-known nationally but popular locally at the height of Seattle's grunge-rock scene in the early '90s. Her death prompted an all-night vigil attended by 1,000 people as well as the creation of a self-defense group, Home Alive.

The Seattle music community - including Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden - raised $70,000 to hire a private investigator for three years, but eventually the funds dried up.

The Gits met at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and began playing together in 1986. They took their name from a Monty Python skit: "The Sniveling Little Rat-faced Gits."

Three years later they moved to Seattle; Los Angeles was too expensive, and Seattle was as far as they could get from the Midwest, said Mr. Moriarty, the drummer.

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