Jeanette Zapata Disappearance

Oct 11, 1976 – Madison, WI

Solved after more than 31 years!

May 12th, 1976: After 17 years of marriage Jeanette Zapata serves her husband Eugene Zapata with divorce papers. She told a friend she had decided to file for divorce after she found out Eugene had published semi-nude photos of her in swinger magazines without her knowledge. For the next five months Eugene stalks his estranged wife's movements, keeping a diary, even digging through her trash.

October 11th, 1976: At her home on 5700 block of Indian Trace where Jeanette lived with the couple's three children, Eugene kills her. He would later tell police, he picked up a rectangular draftsman's weight, approached Jeanette from behind and “struck her hard” more than once on head. She fell to the floor and hit the dishwasher door on the way down. Then Eugene strangled her “until his hands hurt”. He then wrapped a cord around her neck to assure that she was dead. He wraps Jeanette’s body in a tent and takes it in his car to a farm field near Madison. Eugene tells everyone she just disappeared.

1977: Eugene buys land in Juneau County and moves Jeanette’s body there.

1978: Eugene’s granted a divorce and remarries a few days later.

2004: A high school friend, Peg Weekley, writes to Madison police to ask if they have any news on Jeanette disappearance and urges them to reopen the case. Madison police reopen investigation.

2005: Eugene moves to Nevada, he digs up Jeanette's remains, and moves them to a storage locker in Sun Prairie. He later returns, cleans out the storage locker, and disposes of the remains in several Dumpsters at the Juneau County Landfill near Mauston.

2005-2006: Madison police use cadaver dogs to check the basement of Zapata's former home on Indian Trace, and other locations. The dogs alert to the scent of human remains, but none are found.

2006: Eugene is charged with first-degree murder in Dane County and is arrested in Nevada.

2007: Trial ends in mistrial after jury is deadlocked. Prosecutors say they will retry Zapata.

Feb. 5, 2008: Eugene pleads guilty and gives a detailed account of the murder as required under a plea agreement, but later states he confessed only to avoid a second trial. By law he had to be sentenced according to the laws in 1976. With time off for good behavior, he could be freed in as little as three years and one month.