Mia was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Mia learned how to play the guitar and the piano by age nine, and influenced by punk rock as well as jazz, blues and R&B singers such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, Hank Williams and Sam Cooke. In 1984, Mia enrolled at Antioch College located in Yellow Springs, Ohio as a liberal arts student. In September 1986, she and Steve, Matt and Andy formed the punk rock band The Gits. After playing music for a while the band got restless and moved to Seattle in 1989. They heard there was an interesting music scene happening, and it immediately felt like home. Mia was the first of the group to get gainfully employed. She got hired at a trashy dive bar and helped Andy, Matt, and Steve out with free food. The dive bar was near a mental hospital, and eccentric folks would often come in. Mia would say “I love my job, I get to paid to hear people’s problems!” Mia had a great sense of humor, loved to meet new people and had no problem cracking jokes. The four moved into an abandoned building and called it “The Rathouse”. The Gits powerful, driving music and poetic lyrics were creating a stir in the area. They had shows there often with their friends, 7 Year Bitch. In 1992, the band released its debut album Frenching the Bully. Their reputation progressively increased within the grunge scene in Seattle.
At around 2:00 a.m. on July 7, 1993, Zapata left the Comet Tavern in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. She stayed at a studio space in the basement of an apartment building located a block away, and briefly visited a friend who lived on the second floor. This was the last time she was seen alive. She may have walked a few blocks west, north to a friend’s apartment, or may have decided to take the long walk south to her home.
She was beaten, strangled and possibly raped, in the Central District of Seattle. It is believed she encountered her attacker shortly after 2:15 am. Since an employee at the Comet remembered her wearing her headset as she left, it is believed she was listening to music on her walkman and thus was unaware of the attacker approaching. Her body was not initially identified, as she had no identification on her when she was found.
According to the cable television show Unsolved Mysteries, a man two blocks from the Comet Tavern heard a scream around 3:00 a.m. A woman discovered her body in the street at around 3:30 a.m. near the intersection of 24th Avenue South and South Washington Street in the Central District. According to the medical examiner, if she had not been strangled she would have died from the internal injuries suffered from the beating. An autopsy found evidence of a struggle in which Zapata suffered blunt impact to her abdomen and a lacerated liver as recorded in court documents.
Zapata is interred at Cave Hill Cemetery in her hometown of Louisville. The Seattle music community, including its most famous bands – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden – helped raise $70,000 to hire a private investigator for three years. The funds dried up. But the investigator, Leigh Hearon, continued to investigate on her own time. In 1998 after five years of investigation, Seattle police Detective Dale Tallman said: “we’re no closer to solving the case than we were right after the murder”.