The Kitty Genovese Murder
Catherine Susan “Kitty” Genovese, born on July 7, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York City, was the eldest of five children of Italian-American parents Rachel and Vincent Andronelle Genovese. She was raised Catholic, living in a brownstone home at 29 St. Johns Place in Park Slope, a western Brooklyn neighborhood populated mainly by families of Italian and Irish heritage. In her teenage years, she attended the all-girl Prospect Heights High School, where she was recalled as being “self-assured beyond her years” and having a “sunny disposition”. After her mother witnessed a murder, her family moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, in 1954, while Genovese, who had recently graduated from high school, remained in Brooklyn with her grandparents to prepare for her upcoming marriage, which was annulled the end of that year.
After moving into an apartment in Brooklyn, Genovese worked in clerical jobs, which she found unappealing. By the late 1950s, she had accepted a position as a bartender. In August 1961 she was briefly arrested for bookmaking, as she had been taking bets on horse races from bar patrons. She and her girlfriend, Dee Guarnieri, were fined $50 each and she lost her job. She held another bartending position at Ev’s Eleventh Hour Bar on Jamaica Avenue and 193rd Street in Hollis, Queens, and was soon managing the bar on behalf of its absentee owner. By working double-shifts, she was able to save money, which she intended to use to open an Italian restaurant. She shared her Kew Gardens apartment at 82–70 Austin Street with her girlfriend Mary Ann Zielonko, whom she met in 1963.
At approximately 2:30 a.m. on March 13, 1964, Genovese left the bar where she worked and began driving home in her red Fiat. While waiting for a traffic light to change on Hoover Avenue, she was spotted by Winston Moseley, who was sitting in his parked car. Genovese arrived home around 3:15 a.m. and parked her car in the Kew Gardens Long Island Rail Road station parking lot, about 100 feet from her apartment’s door, in an alleyway at the rear of the building. As she walked toward the apartment complex, Moseley exited his vehicle, armed with a hunting knife and began to approach Genovese. As Genovese ran toward her building, Moseley overtook her, stabbing her twice in the back. Genovese screamed, “Oh my God, he stabbed me! Help me!” Several neighbors heard her cry for help when Robert Mozer, one of the neighbors, shouted at the attacker, “Let that girl alone!” Startled, Moseley ran off as Genovese slowly made her way toward the rear entrance of the building, seriously injured.
Witnesses stated that they saw Moseley enter his car and drive away. Little did they know, Moseley returned a few minutes later and systematically searched the parking lot, the train station, and an apartment complex before eventually finding Genovese. She was barely conscious and lying in a hallway at the back of the building, where a locked door had prevented her from going inside. Out of view of the street and of those who may have heard or seen any sign of the initial attack, Moseley stabbed Genovese several more times before raping her, stealing $49 from her, and running off again. The attacks spanned approximately half an hour, and knife wounds in Genovese’s hands suggested that she attempted to defend herself from him. A neighbor, Sophia Farrar, found her shortly after and held her in her arms.
Records of the earliest calls to police are unclear and were not given a high priority; the incident occurred four years before New York City implemented the 911 emergency call system. One of the witnesses claimed his father called the police after the initial attack and reported that a woman was “getting beat up, but got up and staggered away”. A few minutes after the final attack, another witness, Karl Ross, called two friends for advice on what to do, the second of whom called a third friend who then called the police, who arrived at the scene within minutes of this call. Genovese was picked up by an ambulance at 4:15 a.m. and died en route to the hospital. She was buried on March 16, 1964, in Lakeview Cemetery in New Canaan, Connecticut.
Mary Ann Zielonko was questioned by Detective Mitchell Sang at 7 am in the morning after the murder. She was later interrogated for six hours by two homicide detectives, John Carroll and Jerry Burns, whose questioning centered on her relationship with Genovese. This was also the police’s focus when they questioned the couple’s neighbors. Initially, Zielonko was considered to be a suspect. On March 19, 1964, six days after the stabbing, Winston Moseley was arrested for suspected robbery in Ozone Park, Queens, after a television set was discovered in the trunk of his car, a white Chevrolet Corvair. A detective recalled that a white car had been reported by some of the witnesses to Genovese’s murder, and he informed Detectives Carroll and Sang. During questioning, Moseley admitted to the murder of Genovese and two other women – Annie Mae Johnson, who had been shot and burned to death in her apartment in South Ozone Park a few weeks earlier, and 15-year-old Barbara Kralik, who had been killed in her parents’ Springfield Gardens home the previous July.
Winston Moseley was 29 years old at the time he murdered Genovese. He was from Ozone Park, Queens and worked at Remington Rand, as a tab operator, preparing the punched cards used at that time for data storage for digital computers. He was married with three children and had no prior criminal record. While in custody, Moseley confessed to killing Genovese. He detailed the attack, corroborating the physical evidence at the scene. He said that his motive for the attack was simply “to kill a woman”, saying he preferred to kill women because “they were easier and didn’t fight back”. He stated that he got up that night around 2 a.m., leaving his wife asleep at home, and drove through Queens to find a victim. He saw Genovese on her way home and followed her to the parking lot before killing her. He also confessed to murdering and sexually assaulting the two other women and to committing between 30 and 40 burglaries. Subsequent psychiatric examinations suggested that Moseley was a necrophile. An IQ test carried out after his arrest gave a score of 135.
Moseley was charged with the murder of Genovese, but was not charged with the other two murders he had admitted to. For the police, a complicating factor was that another man, Alvin Mitchell, had also confessed to the murder of Barbara Kralik. The jury deliberated for seven hours before returning a guilty verdict at around 10:30 p.m on June 11. On June 15, Moseley was sentenced to death for the murder of Genovese. When the jury foreman read the sentence, Moseley showed no emotion, while some spectators applauded and cheered. Judge Shapiro added, “I don’t believe in capital punishment, but when I see a monster like this, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the switch myself.”
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, and the sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. Moseley was denied parole an 18th time in November 2015, and died in prison on March 28, 2016, at the age of 81. He had served 52 years, making him one of the longest-serving inmates in the New York State prison system.
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