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Kitty Genovese (July 7, 1935 – March 13, 1964)

In 1964, Kitty Genovese was brutally attacked and left to die near her own house in Queens, New York. Her death contributed to the social psychological phenomenon called bystander effect.

Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was born to Italian-American parents. After she had graduated high school, the family moved out of the city to the suburbs of Connecticut. Content with city life (and her work), Kitty did not join them. At 3 am on March 13, 1964, Kitty left work (she was a waitress) for home. As she walked up to her apartment, she heard footsteps. She began to run but Winston Moseley soon caught up to her and stabbed her. She screamed that she had been stabbed and gave other calls for help. A neighbor actually witnessed the struggle from his apartment and called down to leave her alone. Distracted, Kitty got to her feet to try to make it into the apartment entrance, but instead collapsed at the foot of the stairs. Initially Moseley ran back to his car. When he didn’t hear any sirens, he went back to finish what he started (Kitty was not his first murder victim). He stabbed her again and brutally raped her. Sated, he stole $49 from her and left her alive but barely breathing. Another neighbor finally came to her aid, holding her and trying to comfort her. Around 4 am, finally, another neighbor finally called police. An ambulance took Kitty to Queens General Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The initial death report suggested that Kitty may have lived if help had arrived before the second attack by the stairs; Kitty had valiantly fought for her life. Moseley was arrested six days after the attack in which he confessed to Kitty, Annie Mae Johnson and Barbara Kralik’s murders. He was sentenced to death on June 15, 1964, but his sentence was later reduced to 20 years to life. He escaped Attica in 1968 and took hostages in Buffalo before being recaptured. He was given an additional 30 years and was denied parole 18 times. He died in prison March 28, 2016 at age 81. At the time, Moseley was one of New York’s longest serving inmates.

Initial media coverage was a four-paragraph blurb on Saturday, March 14, 1964. Two weeks later an article entitled “37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police” appeared. Though some of the claims in the article were slightly exaggerated, by 1968, Genovese’s murder was already inspiring Good Samaritan Laws.