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Kitty Genovese's murderer dies in prison

This article shared 3070 times since Wed Apr 27, 2016
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By Carrie Maxwell

Although not known to the wider world, Catherine Susan "Kitty" Genovese was a lesbian and in a relationship with Mary Ann Zielonko at the time of her rape and murder in 1964.

Genovese's murderer, Winston Moseley—who confessed to the killings of Genovese and two other young women in a handwritten statement—died at 81 on March 28, 2016, in upstate New York's Clinton Correctional Facility. Moseley's death has renewed interest in Genovese's case as well as her relationship with Zielonko.

Genovese and Zielonko lived together in the quiet, leafy Queens, New York, neighborhood Kew Gardens. Both women were bartenders and, on the night of March 13, 1964, 28-year-old Genovese ( who was also the bar's manager ) closed the bar down and drove home. After parking and exiting her car, Genovese noticed Moseley watching her so she tried to walk to the police call box on an adjoining street. However, Moseley grabbed her before she made it off her street. In the ensuing 35 minutes, Moseley raped, beat and stabbed Genovese to death.

At the time of the murder, a New York Times article said 38 witnesses heard Genovese's cries for help but none of them tried to scare Moseley away or call the police until it was too late.

According to Kevin Cook—author of Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America ( 2014 )—the bystander effect can't accurately be applied to this case. He explained that even though initial reports said many neighbors witnessed Genovese's rape and murder, later investigations revealed that only a handful of them saw what was going on.

"The case led to a widespread study of the bystander effect, sometimes called the Genovese syndrome, which affected but didn't apply to her case because there were actually very few bystanders," said Cook. "It also led to the institution of New York City's 911 emergency phone system, neighborhood watch groups and the victim's rights movement in the courts."

In 2004, NPR revisited the story and, for the first time, Zielonko spoke to reporters about the case and her relationship with Genovese. Zielonko said they met in a lower Manhattan gay bar named The Seven Steps and were together exactly one year. She also noted how hard it was to be a gay woman during that time and the fact that both women were in the closet.

Zielonko explained that on the night of the murder she came home from bowling with a friend and went to bed. The next thing Zielonko said she heard was the police knocking on their door at 4 a.m., asking her to identify Genovese's body at the emergency room. After Genovese's murder, she began to drink. Six months after Genovese's murder, she moved away and went back to college; however, her anger at the people who didn't say or do anything that night hasn't gone away.

Zielonko, who currently resides in Vermont, recently spoke to The New York Times about Genovese for its Retro Report series. In the video, Zielonko explained that after identifying Genovese's body, she went home. She said the next day police officers came back to her house, took her to the police station and questioned her for six hours. Zielonko noted the police considered her a prime suspect in the murder because they always look at the people closest to the murder victim. The fact that they were lesbians and living together only made the police more suspicious of her, Zielonko explained.

"Kitty was the most wonderful, likable and vibrant person I ever knew," said Zielonko. "Her death helped a lot of people live because of the 911 system that went into effect shortly after she was murdered. After her murder, a lot of people wouldn't call me because they thought my phone was tapped. To make matters worse, one police officer asked me what two women do in bed when I was being questioned at the police station and I told him. I was really vulnerable and, thinking back, I resent him for asking that question. That was the way I was treated by the authorities."

In addition to Cook's book and recent news reports, a documentary by James Solomon—The Witness, which features Genovese's younger brother Bill ( who is also the project's executive producer )—will debut this summer. The documentary focuses on Bill's quest to find out the truth about that night, including the fact that some of the witnesses did call the police.

Bill also wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times following Moseley's death. The letter, in part, said, "May the Spirit, in whom I believe that Kitty, and now Winston, reside, help resolve the eternal question: What do we owe to all our fellow beings? This is a question that each human being must strive to answer, one moment at a time. Let us join with the hope of shared egalitarian equanimity."

This article shared 3070 times since Wed Apr 27, 2016
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