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Originally published Friday, January 30, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Singer's killer sentenced to 36 years in prison again

The man who killed promising Seattle musician Mia Zapata in 1993 was again sentenced to 36 years in prison Thursday even though the state Court of Appeals overturned his original 36-year prison sentence.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The man who killed promising Seattle musician Mia Zapata in 1993 was again sentenced to 36 years in prison Thursday even though the state Court of Appeals overturned his original 36-year prison sentence.

Jesus Mezquia, 54, was convicted in 2004 of raping and killing Zapata when she left a friend's Capitol Hill home around 2 a.m. on July 7, 1993. Zapata, 27, singer in a band called The Gits, had been out celebrating a successful West Coast tour and grieving a recently lost relationship. An autopsy revealed that Zapata had been bitten, and strangled by the cords on her sweat shirt.

Her slaying, which remained unsolved for years, sparked outrage and fear among family, friends and fans. An all-night candlelight vigil in Zapata's memory was held, friends and fans raised money to hire a private investigator to help find the killer, and a women's self-defense group was started.

Detectives preserved DNA from the bite wounds and sent them to the state crime lab. In 2002, the DNA was matched to Mezquia, whose DNA had been entered into the national databank when he was convicted of possessing burglar's tools. He was living in Florida at the time.

Because of the extreme injuries suffered by Zapata, the trial-court judge said she found legal justification for the 36-year sentence.

The appellate court overturned the sentence in 2005 based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling known as the Blakely decision, which said that any factor that extends a sentence beyond its standard range must be proven by a jury or admitted by the defendant. A standard sentence in this case would have ranged from 18 to 28 years.

But Mezquia waived his right to have a jury determine whether aggravating circumstances would justify a longer sentence. This allowed King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong to again sentence Mezquia to 36 years in prison.

Defense attorney George Eppler said after the sentencing hearing that he did not know why Mezquia chose to waive his right to have his case heard by a jury, which could have shortened his time in prison.

"The reasons why any individual acts are innumerable," he said. "Those were his marching orders."

Mezquia has been in prison since January 2003.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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