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Requiem for Mia Zapata

It was once described as one of Seattle’s oldest, diviest bars, famous for its loud stage pungent bathroom and ceiling of nicotine-stained dollar bills.

For over 50-years, The Comet Tavern was a second home for Seattle musicians, the red neon sign over the front door welcoming them in out of the rain.

In the ground floor of a century-old three-story brick building, the façade was painted a deep black. The bar always had some no-name local craft beers on tap, the perfect drink for those starving artists.

Nestled in between Capitol Hill and the Central District, the neighborhood might’ve been a little seedy, but in the 90’s it was Ground Zero for Seattle’s grunge scene.

The Comet was just a block away from where you’ll now find a tribute to Jimmy Hendrix. A life-size bronze sculpture of the guitar legend living out his finest moment, guitar in hand, head flung back, on his knees in ecstasy. The look on his face reminiscent of another Seattle rocker who was also gone too soon.

Mia Zapata had grown up in the Midwest. She was a musician to the core. A little shy, a little goofy, but when she hit the stage as the lead singer for the Gits, she would come alive. Mia’s passion was palpable as she belted out lyrics with her soulful growl.

The band developed a reputation for intense, fiery performances that would pack the clubs in Seattle, and up and down the West Coast.

They had just wrapped up one of those West Coast tours, when they hit the Comet on a Tuesday evening in July, 1993. They were celebrating. Not only did their latest performances get rave reviews, but they’d just been made an offer by Atlantic Records.

Their future never looked brighter.

Mia stumbled out of the Comet that night, after more than a few of those craft brews, with a smile on her face, listening to the music coming from her Walkman cassette player.

With no cab in sight, she set off walking instead. It was a little over a mile to her house, but it was a warm July evening and she had plenty of excitement to work off, anyway.

I can just picture Mia, in her ratty jeans, hands in her pockets, her favorite Gits hoodie keeping off the cool breeze coming in off the water. Her choppy brown hair hanging loosely, brushing the tops of her shoulders.

I bet she was singing as she walked along that night… imagining the next time she would be on stage…

But, there wouldn’t be a next time. Just one hour later, Mia’s body would be found dumped in the street. She’d been sexually assaulted, beaten, and strangled. The cord of her Gits hoodie used to steal her life.

She was just 27 years old, the same age Jimi Hendrix was when he died. And Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. It was exactly the kind of company Mia deserved to be in, but for exactly the wrong reason.

The monstrous attack and the decade-long search for the killer would change the Seattle music scene forever.

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