Anyone who has lived in Seattle during the past decade and had even the vaguest interest in local music knows that Mia Zapata, lead singer of the Gits, was brutally murdered one July night after leaving the Comet Tavern, and that despite the best efforts of her bandmates, friends, and a community of musicians and fans, her killer was never found. Now, after 10 years, an arrest has finally been made in the case; DNA evidence found at the murder scene led police to Zapata's alleged killer. Though news of the arrest this weekend was cause for jubilation, there remains a long way to go before justice is done. In the meantime, those who were legitimately close to the murdered singer will be forced to revisit nearly a decade of unresolved emotions, while the rest of us may finally be allowed to lower Zapata from the pedestal of the martyred dead and view her as a human being. The Stranger talked with former Gits bassist Matt Dresdner, who spoke by phone from his home in Columbus, Ohio.

Did you ever think this day would come? Had you given up hope?

I had given up hope. For the last three years, I really tried to not think about the case so much. I left Seattle six months ago, you know, and while [Mia's murder] wasn't the reason I left Seattle, when I did leave I felt like it would help me put that whole thing behind me.

How involved were you in the investigation?

The other members of the Gits and myself--Andy [Kessler, AKA Joe Spleen], Steve [Moriarty], and myself--interviewed private investigators, settled on one, hired her, and met with her weekly for years. We did this as well as organizing benefit concerts to fund the investigation. There was hardly a band with a draw that didn't play to help raise the money for the investigation. So yeah, I was as involved as anybody.

In cold murder cases, it's said that family members sometimes have an odd reaction when a suspect is finally caught. Some find themselves reliving the murder all over again, and that can be so painful they almost wish the case had remained unsolved.

That is going on in my mind and my heart to a certain extent. Personally, I had started to try to not think about it so much, and I'd come to some resolution about the murder. Now all of a sudden realizing that there's going to be an arraignment and a trial and a sentencing--and hopefully this person is going to end up being convicted... I feel a need to be there and see this guy's face, and I know that's definitely going to bring me right back to the emotional state I was in almost 10 years ago.

Have you talked to other members of the inner circle? Is everybody sort of feeling the same way?

More or less. The reports I'm getting are that emotions are changing rather dramatically and frequently. Steve and I spent the first 24 hours feeling pretty skeptical; we thought that there was no DNA evidence to match. My emotions were a bit flat, and I felt numb. When I was finally able to see the Seattle Police Department press release the next day and I realized that this was probably the real deal, I knew I'd be having to deal with the next phase of this tragedy. But it's some relief that someone's finally going to have to answer for this.

What's the most negative aspect of the way the story has been reported, both then and now?

Prior to the murder, the media hadn't paid any attention to the band. Once Mia was murdered, they started putting her on an artistic pedestal and used the name of the band as if it had been a household word. I mean, we understand that the media exists to sell advertising, and that the more dramatic they make the story, the better the ratings [become]. But it was frustrating. But pretty [soon] we realized that the media was going to be helpful to us no matter how ugly we thought the portrayal of the whole situation was. Keeping the story in the news would keep pressure on the SPD to try to solve the case. So after a while we did everything we could for the media, no matter how much we disliked it. We even appeared on programs like Unsolved Mysteries and America's Most Wanted. We felt we had to do everything humanly possible, and if the case stayed in the media, someone might see a report on television that sparked a memory of that night, or if they knew someone who had been bragging. We had to give it a shot.

In the same way that the media talked about the Gits like they knew and cared about the band the day before the murder, did you get the sense that people in Seattle and in the music scene were doing the same thing? After the murder, did you get the sense that people who had never seen the Gits, or heard of Mia before she was murdered, were saying, "I loved the Gits, I knew Mia, I was at the Comet that night... "?

I witnessed a little bit of that, initially. [Those were the] people who made me stop wearing anything that said "The Gits" on it. Any time I wore a Gits sweatshirt out of the house, someone would inevitably say something stupid, like, "Oh, yeah, that is a terrible story, I was good friends with Mia." And you know—I knew Mia's friends. But Mia was such a charismatic person. Everyone she met, they felt like they were best friends--and so of course if there was any contact before her death, that would probably be enlarged in their memories.

The murder took place less than a year after I moved here. Reading about it at the time, I had the sense that the Gits were the biggest band in Seattle and that Mia was sainted.

She was sainted, and that was very peculiar. She became this icon for feminism and all kinds of things that she had very little to do with in her actual life. And I think you're right that some people were drawn to her out of morbid fascination. But it was a weird time. The Gits, at the time of her death, were just starting to break through. We weren't anywhere close to being the biggest band in Seattle. We had developed a very tight-knit loyal following, and it was interesting because we got to know most of the people who came to our shows and there was a real sense of community. But after her death, that seemed to grow in a very strange way.

How surprised are you that the Seattle Police Department kept up with this case and came through?

I'm blown away. Over the years we had tried to make contact with them just to see how things were going, but my assumption was that if the case was open, it was on the back of someone's desk. These guys getting together and resubmitting the DNA samples, which we didn't even know they had, repeatedly, through the national felony database? That's just amazing! I would like to buy each and every one of the cops involved a drink. It's phenomenal police work—and I have to say that initially I didn't think they were doing everything they could. And nine and a half years later, they really proved themselves.

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