Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Kitty Genovese Murder: March 13, 1964

The Kitty Genovese story has always horrified me, after reading about it for years while growing up, in both newsmagazines and in college textbooks. (In my younger, wannabe-punk days, I carelessly fantasized about a band I'd be in, to be called either "Trip" or "Kitty Genovese.")

As the New York Times reported days after the March 13, 1964, attack:

"For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

Twice their chatter and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out, and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead."

Pre-Internet and sans any other information, I thought of the drawn-out murder as a lovers' quarrel, taking place in the courtyard of a tenement. I damned the onlookers, damned a non-caring, misogynist society in general.

As I've just learned this week, thanks to a New Yorker article upon the 50th anniversary of Genovese's death and subsequent Internet research:

No, there weren't anywhere near "38" witnesses to the murder who all ignored the attack. A neighbor yelled out the window to "Leave that girl alone!" upon first hearing screams. The killer, a stranger to Genovese, Winston Mosely, then fled. After being stabbed the first time, Genovese then tried to make her way to the hall of her apartment, then collapsed outside of it. Which is where the psychopath Mosely found her when he came back. As Mosely was stabbing her for a second time, her neighbor, a gay guy across the hall, opened the door an inch and witnessed the attack. The neighbor then retreated and called a friend, asking what he should do. (The friend advised him to get out of there -- so the neighbor crawled out his back window and didn't call the police. When later questioned by police, this guy is the source of the now-infamous quote: "I didn't want to get involved.")

Was this a mass-sociological case of "I didn't want to get involved" as the media/textbooks claimed? Nah. It was the case of one psychopath (Winston Mosely) and one coward (the gay neighbor). Other neighbors did in fact call the police and an ambulance. Genovese died in one neighbor's arms.

Some interesting things about the case that I just learned upon reading the New Yorker article and other Internet articles: Kitty Genovese was gay. She lived in her apartment with her lover. She was a 28-year-old manager at a sports bar. Her mother had insisted that the family move from Queens to Connecticut 9 years earlier after witnessing a murder, but Kitty, raised in the city, wanted to stay in NYC.

The murderer, Winston Mosely, was married with kids, gainfully employed, had been picking his victims at random. In 1968, he escaped from prison and raped a woman before being recaptured. He's still alive, incarcerated in the NY prison system. In 1977, the NY Times published his essay "Today I'm a Man Who Wants to be an Asset."

Kitty Genovese mug shot from a bookmaking arrest

Kitty Genovese at her job at Ev's 11th Hour

Queens murder site: Austin Street 1964

Austin Street 2014

Mosely's mug shot

Mosely's arrest

Mosely in 2012

The initial New York Times article.
Crime Library account.
Murderpedia photos.

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