Jeanette Zapata

Jeanette Zapata

The Jean Foundation is a non-profit organization born of the struggles faced by those investigating Jean Zapata’s disappearance, teamed with Jean’s daughter Linda who selflessly stood up for her mother. The mission of the Jean Foundation is simply: “Assist in the search for the missing.”   Our goal is to provide financial assistance so that these cases may reach a successful conclusion.  Please help to bring the missing home.







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On a beautiful October day in 1976, Jeanette Zapata a dedicated flight instructor and mother of three, went missing from her home in a quiet neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin. At the time of her disappearance, Jeanette was in the middle of a bitter divorce and custody battle with her husband, Eugene Zapata. 


Madison Police Department investigated her disappearance briefly, but the investigation waned under the assumption that Jeanette had left on her own, abandoning her career and three children whom she loved dearly. For twenty-seven years, the case remained a mystery.  In 2004, Jeanette’s best friend Peg Weekly made a call to Madison Police Department, requesting that the case be reopened.  That call changed lives forever. 


A lengthy investigation ensued.  Detectives used a number of tools including human remains detection dogs, which were unavailable in 1976. The use of these tools illuminated leads that ultimately helped to solve the case. 


Other investigative tasks included the excavation of both a crawl space and a landfill.  The investigation was very lengthy and at times almost cost prohibitive for the Madison Police Department. However, the investigation was completed and forwarded to the Dane County District Attorney’s Office.  


Eugene Zapata, was eventually arrested and charged with first-degree murder; without the most damning piece of evidence in any homicide case – the body of the victim. The Dane County District Attorney’s office is one of the few in the nation that will charge and pursue what is commonly referred to as a bodiless homicide. Five months after the trial that ended in a hung jury, Jeanette Zapata was vindicated as a mother who never would have willingly abandoned her children, when Eugene plead guilty to 2nd Degree Reckless Homicide. prior to a second trial.


The resolution of this case is an example of restorative justice. Part of the plea agreement was that Eugene would provide details about his actions on October 11th 1976, that led to Jean’s murder as well as what he did with her remains. The secrets that he kept for 31 years became public and provided answers to Jean’s family and friends.  Linda finally got her questions answered. The truth was revealed, which never would have happened without the plea agreement.  


All too often people go missing in the United States, many of them women. The investigation of these cases is often lengthy and expensive not only for law enforcement but also for the families of the missing and the district attorney’s offices that may eventually prosecute a crime.