Thirty-Seven Witnesses Watched a Horrific Murder and Did Nothing
The true story of the murder of Kitty Genovese
Catherine Susan Genovese was born on 7th July 1935 in New York. She was the oldest of five children and nicknamed Kitty.
Kitty attended an all-girl high school where she was described as having a sunny disposition. When her family moved to Connecticut, she stayed behind and decided to continue her life independently. In 1953, it was reported that she witnessed a murder which left her understandably disturbed.
She started her career working several clerical jobs; towards the end of the 1950s, she worked in a local bar. In August 61, she was arrested for illegal gambling; she would take bets from her customers on the horses. She was found guilty and lost her job. However, she soon worked at another bar called Evs Eleventh Bar, where she was promoted to manager and moved to an apartment in Queens.
Ten years later, Kitty met Mary Ann Zielonko in a nightclub. The two fell in love, and despite homosexuality still being illegal, they moved in together, living in Kew Gardens, an idyllic peaceful area.
On 13th March 1964, Kitty left work at 230 am, arriving at her apartment at 315. She parked 100 feet from the apartments and walked towards the door. As she walked, she was attacked; she changed direction to run towards the front door, where she was stabbed twice.
A neighbour, Robert Mozer, heard the attack and shouted, ‘Let that girl alone.’ The attacker ran away, Mozer returned to bed. Witnesses would later state they saw a man get into a white car and drive away.
Despite being severely injured, Kitty tried to make her way to the back door. Ten minutes later, the attacker was back and searching the building; he found Kitty lying in a hallway at the back of the building. A locked door had prevented her from entering.
Kitty was then stabbed numerous times, raped and robbed. The ordeal lasted thirty minutes; she put up a brave fight from the defensive wounds on her hands.
Sophie Farrar, a friend who heard the attack and with no regard for her safety, raced to her friend’s side, where she provided comfort in her final moments. At 415, the ambulance arrived, but Kitty died en route to the hospital.
The bystander effect
On 27th November, the New York Times printed an article stating that thirty-seven people witnessed the attack and no one helped. It started the bystander effect theory and has led to much research.
Research on bystander intervention has produced a significant number of studies showing that the presence of other people in a critical situation reduces the likelihood that an individual will help. It is a theory which media later mentioned with the abduction of James Bulger, as many as one hundred people may have seen his abduction and done nothing.
This was a complete fabrication or error regarding Kitty’s case. There were never thirty-seven witnesses who didn’t respond, although the issue is famous for this reporting. In truth, there were a couple of people who should be eternally ashamed of themselves, but the majority did what they could.
Robert Mozer was the initial suspect who yelled for the attacker to leave Kitty alone on the first attack. Some report that he saw the attacker return and did nothing; others say he went to bed after the first attack.
Hattie Grund heard someone shouting help and saw Kitty alone outside. She rang the police, who stated they were aware of the attack. However, it is unclear who had made the initial phone call. Michael Hoffman said his father had called the attack in, but log records show it was not recorded.
Joseph Fink was a night elevator operator who witnessed the first attack and knew that Kitty had been stabbed. But, rather than ring the police or check on her, he went to the basement for a nap.
Karl Ross was present during the second attack. He opened the door a crack and saw the assault, even making eye contact with Kitty. Despite this, he shut the door and did nothing, stating, ‘I didn’t want to get involved.’
Solving the murder
Initially, Kitty’s partner was considered a suspect. She was questioned for six hours; police were particularly interested in the couple’s relationship.
On 19th March 64, Raoul Cleary became suspicious of a man moving a television from his neighbour’s house. Cleary spoke to another neighbour who confirmed no one was moving home; Cleary raised the alarm realising a robbery was in progress. Cleary then went and disabled the car of the robber. When the police arrived, they realised that they were looking at a white car that matched the description of that seen at Kitty’s murder scene.
The car belonged to Winston Moseley, a twenty-eight-year-old father of three with no criminal record. When interviewed, Moseley admitted several robberies and Kitty’s murder. He also confessed to two further murders, his motive ‘to kill a woman as they were easier and didn’t fight back.’
On 8th June 1964, Moseley pleaded guilty on the grounds of insanity. After seven hours, the jury found him guilty, and three days later, he was sentenced to death. Authorities later changed this sentence to life in 1967. Moseley died on 28th March 2016 at the age of eighty-one.
The witnesses who ignored Kitty, had their conscience to live with but never faced any charges.