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Catherine Susan Genovese (July 7, 1935 — March 13, 1964), commonly known as Kitty Genovese, was a New York City woman who was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens section of Queens, New York. The circumstances of her murder and the apparent reaction of her neighbors were reported by a newspaper article published two weeks later and prompted investigation into the psychological phenomenon that became known as the bystander effect or "Genovese syndrome."
Born in New York City, Genovese was the oldest of five children in a middle class Italian American family and was raised in Brooklyn. After her mother witnessed a murder in the city, the family chose to move to Connecticut in 1954. Genovese, however, nineteen at the time, chose to remain in the city, where she lived for nine years. Kitty eventually took a job as a bar manager at Ev's 11th Hour Sports Bar on Jamaica Avenue in Hollis, Queens. At the time of her murder, she lived in a Queens apartment she shared with Mary Ann Zielonko.
Genovese had driven home in the early morning of March 13, 1964. Arriving home at about 3:15 a.m. and parking about 100 feet (30 m) from her apartment's door, she was approached by Winston Moseley, a Business Machine Operator. Moseley ran after her and quickly overtook her, stabbing her twice in the back. When Genovese screamed out, her cries were heard by several neighbors; but on a cold night with the windows closed, only a few of them recognized the sound as a cry for help. When one of the neighbors shouted at the attacker, "Let that girl alone!", Moseley ran away and Genovese slowly made her way towards her own apartment around the end of the building. She was seriously injured, but now out of view of those few who may have had reason to believe she was in need of help.
Records of the earliest calls to police are unclear and were certainly not given a high priority by the police. One witness said his father called police after the initial attack and reported that a woman was "beat up, but got up and was staggering around." 
Other witnesses observed Moseley enter his car and drive away, only to return ten minutes later. He systematically searched the parking lot, train station, and small apartment complex, ultimately finding Genovese, who was lying, barely conscious, in a hallway at the back of the building. Out of view of the street and of those who may have heard or seen any sign of the original attack, he proceeded to further attack her, stabbing her several more times. Knife wounds in her hands suggested that she attempted to defend herself from him. While she lay dying, he sexually assaulted her. He stole about $49 from her and left her dying in the hallway. The attacks spanned approximately half an hour.
A few minutes after the final attack, a witness, Karl Ross, called the police. Police and medical personnel arrived within minutes of Ross' call; Genovese was taken away by ambulance and died en route to the hospital. Later investigation by police and prosecutors revealed that approximately a dozen (but almost certainly not the 38 cited in the Times article) individuals nearby had heard or observed portions of the attack, though none could have seen or been aware of the entire incident.  Only one witness (Joseph Fink) was aware she was stabbed in the first attack, and only Karl Ross was aware of it in the second attack. Many were entirely unaware that an assault or homicide was in progress; some thought that what they saw or heard was a lovers' quarrel or a drunken brawl or a group of friends leaving the bar outside when Moseley first approached Genovese.
Winston Moseley, a business machine operator, was later apprehended in connection with burglary charges; he confessed not only to the murder of Kitty Genovese, but to two other murders, both involving sexual assaults. Subsequent psychiatric examinations suggested that Moseley was a necrophiliac. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
Moseley gave a confession to the police where he detailed the attack, corroborating the physical evidence at the scene. His motive for the attack was simply "to kill a woman." Moseley stated that he got up that night around 2:00 a.m., leaving his wife asleep at home, and drove around to find a victim. He spied Genovese and followed her to the parking lot.
Moseley also testified at his own trial where he further described the attack, leaving no question that he was the killer.
The initial death sentence was reduced to an indeterminate sentence of 20 years to life imprisonment on June 1, 1967. The New York Court of Appeals found that Moseley should have been able to argue that he was "medically insane" at the sentencing hearing when the trial court found that he had been legally sane.
In 1968, during a trip to a Buffalo, New York hospital for surgery (precipitated by a soup can he placed in his own rectum as a pretext to leave prison), Moseley overpowered a guard and beat him up to the point that his eyes were bloody. He then took a bat and swung it at the closest person to him and took five hostages, raping one of them before he was recaptured after a two-day manhunt. He also participated in the later Attica Prison riots.
Moseley remained in prison after being denied parole a twelfth time on February 3, 2006. A previous parole hearing included his defense that "For a victim outside, it's a one-time or one-hour or one-minute affair, but for the person who's caught, it's forever." He will be eligible for another parole hearing in March 2008.
Many saw the story of Genovese's murder as an example of the callousness or apathy supposedly prevalent in New York City, urban America, or humanity in general. Much of this framing of the event came in reaction to an investigative article in the New York Times written by Martin Gansberg and published on March 27, two weeks after the murder. The article bore the headline "Thirty-Eight Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police"; the public view of the story crystallized around a quote from the article, from an unidentified neighbor who saw part of the attack but deliberated, before finally getting another neighbor to call the police: "I didn't want to get involved."
Other reports, cited by Harlan Ellison in his book Harlan Ellison's Watching, stated that one man turned up his radio so that he would not hear Genovese's screams. Ellison says that the report he read attributed the "get involved" quote to nearly all of the thirty-eight who supposedly witnessed the attack. He later repeated the figure of thirty-eight (this time using an expletive to collectively describe them) when mentioning the case in his book The Other Glass Teat.
While Genovese's neighbors were vilified by the article, "Thirty-Eight onlookers who did nothing" is a misleading conception. The article begins:
- "For more than half an hour thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens."
The lead is dramatic but factually inaccurate. None of the witnesses observed the attacks in their entirety. Because of the layout of the complex and the fact that the attacks took place in different locations, no witness saw the entire sequence. Most only heard portions of the incident without realizing its seriousness, a few saw only small portions of the initial assault, and no witnesses directly saw the final attack and attempted rape in an exterior hallway which resulted in Genovese's death.
Nevertheless, media attention to the Genovese murder led to reform of the NYPD's telephone reporting system; the system in place at the time of the assault was often inefficient and directed individuals to the incorrect department. The melodramatic press coverage also led to serious investigation of the bystander effect by academic psychologists. In addition, some communities organized Neighborhood Watch programs and the equivalent for apartment buildings to aid people in distress.
In September 2007, the American Psychologist published an examination of the factual basis of coverage of the Kitty Genovese murder in psychology textbooks. The three authors concluded the story is parable more than fact, largely owing to inaccurate newspaper coverage at the time of the incident. "The since-challenged story of the circumstances surrounding Genovese's death 'continues to inhabit introductory social psychology textbooks (and thus the minds of future social psychologists),' the trio of British university professors write in the September issue of American Psychologist. The result is a lack of research into similar cases, their article maintains".
According to the New York Times, in an article dated December 28, 1974, ten years after the murder, 25-year-old Sandra Zahler was beaten to death early Christmas morning in an apartment of the building which overlooked the site of the Genovese attack. Neighbors again said they heard screams and "fierce struggles" but did nothing.