Photo of Kitty Genovese via Saturday Evening Post
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of Kitty Genovese, the 28-year-old manager of Ev’s Eleventh Hour Sports Bar in Hollis, Queens. At 3:15 a.m., her cries for help went unanswered by many eye-and-ear-witnesses while she was being stabbed and raped by 29-year-old Winston Moseley in the parking lot and surrounding area of her Kew Gardens apartment; witnesses later admitted to police that they “didn’t want to get involved,” and assumed others might have called police.
There was no 911 system in place at the time of the horrific crime ~ but as a result of this tragedy, it led to its creation. Serious investigation by psychologists and sociologists into the bystander effect and the diffusion of responsibility began. Neighborhood Watches started forming.
The story initially went unreported for nearly two weeks, until a police chief mentioned it to a New York Times editor.
A half-century later, the brutal murder and rape that continued over a half-hour period, still strikes a chord in the hearts of many.
Moseley, who was married and the father of two children at the time of the attack, was eventually convicted and sentenced to death, yet his punishment was later reduced to life in prison. In 1968, during a transport from a Buffalo hospital back to Attica Correctional Facility, the violent inmate escaped, held five people hostage, and raped a woman in front of her husband before surrendering to police.
He was an inmate during the 1971 Attica rebellion, which resulted in the deaths of 43 people (10 guards and civilian employees, and 33 prisoners).
In the late 1970s, he became one of the first inmates in New York State to earn a college degree when he received a B.A. in Sociology from Niagara University.
At age 79, he remains alive behind prison walls — one of the longest-serving inmates in New York State’s prison history. In December 2013, Moseley was denied parole for the seventeenth time.
Several books have been written about the murder of Catherine (“Kitty”) Susan Genovese, the “bystander effect,” and additional issues surrounding the case. Among the books available on the case include:
Fifty Years After Kitty Genovese, Inside the Case That Rocked Our Faith in Each Other, an e-book written by journalist Peter Hellman and the late Detective Chief Albert A. Seedman.
Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America, by Kevin Cook (W.W. Norton, March 2014). You can listen to a recent NPR interview with the author about the case.
Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and its Private Consequences, by Catherine Pelonero.
Novelist Ryan David Jahn‘s first book, Acts of Violence (Good Neighbors in the U.S.), a literary thriller inspired by Kitty’s murder, won a Crime Writers’ Association John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award in 2010.
Kitty’s brother, Bill Genovese, told the New York Daily News that he’s working on a documentary regarding his sister’s murder (tentatively entitled “The Witness”), which is set for completion by Five More Minutes Production later this year.
Fordham University recently hosted “The Kitty Genovese Memorial Conference: 50 Years Later.”
Kitty’s grave, Lakeview Cemetery, New Canaan, CT
Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.