Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered in a knife attack four months shy of her 29th birthday.
While murders were then all too common in New York City, her city of residence at the time, Genovese’s stood out because of the circumstances.
It was around 3 a.m. on the morning of March 13, 1964. Kitty (birth name Catherine) was on her way home from her bartending shift.
She arrived home by 3:15 a.m. and parked her car in the Long Island Rail Road parking lot just 100 feet from her apartment door, which was located in an alleyway at the rear of the building.
Winston Moseley startled her as he began his approach. This prompted her to run across the parking lot and toward the front of her building.
Moseley caught up to her and stabbed her twice in the back. Kitty was then reported to have said, “Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me!”
Robert Mozer, one of the neighbors, screamed for Moseley to “let that girl alone!,” which prompted him to flee the scene. At this point, Kitty began walking back to the rear entrance, where she was out of sight of witnesses.
Later, some said they observed Moseley go to his car and drive away, but he came back 10 minutes later and stabbed Kitty several more times.
Kitty Genovese would die in the arms of a neighbor moments later.
Moseley was eventually picked up for the crime and sentenced to death, but that was commuted to life plus two 15-year sentences some time later. He would unsuccessfully seek early release several times before his death from undisclosed causes at the age of 81 on March 28, according to USA Today.
The crime made national headlines for an erroneous report that 38 witnesses stood by watching and did nothing to save Kitty Genovese.
The New York Times issued that false report. It later became known that there were just around one dozen witnesses, who came upon the event at different times, many of whom mistook the bits and pieces of the crime for a lover’s quarrel.
They did not realize they were witnessing a murder in progress.
Nevertheless, the “bystander effect” was born. The term describes the phenomenon of individuals refusing to offer assistance to a victim when other people are present.
While there is evidence that neighbors did try to help in the Kitty Genovese murder, it’s a phenomenon that does exist. In fact, a January 2015 Inquisitr report discussed one case in Australia where a man having a heart attack was ignored for five hours as riders stepped over him.
He would later die from the event.
As for the Kitty Genovese case, the misreporting of it has been a destructive force among those who lived close to the event. Not only that, it’s narrative of witness apathy has seemed to overshadow the life of what was once a vibrant young woman, who is now remembered more for how she died than how she lived.
Kitty’s brother, William, set out to change that in 2015 with the documentary film The Witness.
The film starts in 2004 with the Times questioning the facts of its original piece — namely the number of witnesses, what they observed, and the number of attacks.
According to IMDb, “None was more affected by the story than Bill. He vowed not to be like the 38, volunteered for Vietnam, and lost both legs.”
But the film then asks the startling question of whether the Kitty Genovese murder is an urban myth.
To get answers, Bill confronts witnesses, their families, his family, and the killer.
Do you think the Kitty Genovese murder was an example of the bystander effect? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via GLAAD]