Winston Moseley, Who Killed Kitty Genovese, Dies in Prison at 81

Kitty Genovese

He stalked, raped, and killed the Queens bar manager in 1964, while her neighbors failed to act on her cries for help, a crime which came to be symbol of urban apathy – even though the details were untrue, fueled by an erroneous story in The New York Times.

While there was no question that the attack occurred, and that some neighbors ignored cries for help, the portrayal of 38 witnesses as fully aware and unresponsive was erroneous. The article grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived. None saw the attack in its entirety. Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling. There were two attacks, not three. And afterward, two people did call the police. A 70-year-old woman ventured out and cradled the dying victim in her arms until they arrived. Ms. Genovese died on the way to a hospital.

But the account of 38 witnesses heartlessly ignoring a murderous attack was widely disseminated and took on a life of its own, shocking the national conscience and starting an avalanche of academic studies, investigations, films, books, even a theatrical production and a musical. The soul-searching went on for decades, long after the original errors were debunked, evolving into more parable than fact but continuing to reinforce images of urban Americans as too callous or fearful to call for help, even with a life at stake.

But Mosely, a serial killer and necrophiliac, was as bad as he seemed.

Winston Moseley, Who Killed Kitty Genovese, Dies in Prison at 81 [Robert D. McFadden – The New York Times]