From the numerous music venues in Portland & Seattle to the breakout artists that emerged from the area, the Pacific Northwest is known for being iconic in the music scene. Something that seems to be hiding in the shadows, though, is the murder scene that appears to walk side by side. As some of you know, I’ve been archiving a collection of posters that are from the Pacific Northwest area, primarily. Along the way, I’ve learned quite a bit; here are a few of the darker stories I’ve found.
Originally a church and now Roseland Theater, this iconic Portland staple was once Starry Night, one of the favorite venues for the punk music scene in the late 80s to early 90s. Larry Hurwitz masterminded the conversion of the church to the music venue, Starry Night, in 1982. However, 8 years after opening, the venue was shook as the venue’s publicity agent, Timothy Moreau, was found dead in a hallway after a John Lee Hooker concert. He was 21 at the time and his murder would go unsolved for 10 years.
A year after the murder, ownership of the venue changed, and the venue name was updated to the current, Roseland Theatre. Hurwitz decided to sell after claiming “he had lost support from the local music industry“. No wonder, as in 2000 he was arrested and charged for the murder of Timothy Moreau. Hurwitz was caught after being sent to federal prison for tax evasion in 1997.
The publicity from that arrest sparked a new interest in the murder and a fellow employee, George Castagnola, plead guilty as Hurwitz plead no contest. Hurwitz served roughly 8 years of his 11-year sentence and was released in 2008.
The murder of Mia Zapata, the lead singer of The Gits, shook the Seattle music scene. Zapata was found around 3:30am on July 7, 1993, after performing a gig. She was on her way home when she had been beaten, raped, and strangled to death. It was determined that she was wearing her headphones and likely didn’t hear the attacker approach her.
There wasn’t any identification on her, but the medical examiner was a fan of The Gits and was able to identify the singer. She was 27 at the time and has since been held as a symbol of feminism following her heinous murder.
Zapata had formed the group with her friends in 1986. She’d had a passion for music since the age of 9 after learning to play the guitar. The Gits had released a few hits in the punk scene and were on their way up before this tragedy occurred. The Seattle music scene, including larger bands such as Nirvana & Pearl Jam, came together, hiring a private investigator for 3 years in an effort to solve the case.
I came to learn of this after seeing some posters with “Viva Zapata” on them as just a couple examples of the many benefits that were hosted to raise money for the investigation to continue. Her murder was also featured on both Forensic Files & Unsolved Mysteries.
Arrest & aftermath
It would take 10 years for her murder to be solved. The case would be closed only after a DNA profile was extracted from Zapata’s wounds and was finally connected to a man named Jesus Mezquia. Police had previously tried to connect him to the crime, but there was no match until after Mezquia was arrested in 2002.
He was arrested, charged, and sentenced, and would later die in prison in 2021. Mezquia had a long list of reports of violence against him from ex-girlfriends and his wife. He actually had a report of indecent exposure filed against him just two weeks after the Zapata murder. There was no connection at that time, however.
Many bands have paid tribute to their fallen musician via benefit concerts, and songs. Joan Jett’s Evil Stig is “Gits Live” backwards. 7 year Bitch released a tribute, Viva Zapata in 1994. Jett & Kathleen Hanna also released a song and video called Go Home depicting women being stalked and attacked in tribute as well.
Mia’s friends created a group dedicated to self-defense; Home Alive. Home Alive was responsible for many of the benefit concerts, some of which featured Pearl Jam, Heart, Soundgarden, and Nirvana. There was also a documentary filmed called “The Gits Movie” about the singer’s life, band, and Seattle’s music scene.
“Zapata’s death caused a sense of defeat and fear within the Seattle community. The Seattle Times marked the murder as the moment “the Seattle scene lost its sense of invincibility.”
An unfortunate event occurred just recently at music venue, Wow Hall. This year, in Eugene, a mass shooting occurred. On Friday, January 14, a lone gunman wearing a hoodie shot 12 shots into a crowd on the back patio, hitting 6 people. 3 of those hit were rappers that had traveled in to perform from Pendleton. Somehow, there were no fatal shots and only (1) person was in critical condition after the event; the other 5 were stable.
Wow Hall got its name from the Woodmen of the World, who purchased the building in 1906 and renovated it in 1932. It became the most expensive building in the city of Eugene at the time. Originally featuring a dance floor, it found itself at risk of being demolished in 1975 until the community rallied together to save it. The building was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
The gunman’s identity remains unknown, though there is a video of him fleeing the scene. The tip line for this incident is (541) 682-5162 if you happen to have any information.
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