Catherine Susan Genovese, publicly known as “Kitty” Genovese, was murdered outside her apartment complex in Kew Gardens, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens, on March 13, 1964.
Kitty’s assassination became a nationwide scandal after “The New York Times” published a front-page story describing what is now known as “The Bystander Effect,” a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present.
According to the publication, 38 people witnessed the cold-blooded attack and no one did anything to save Kitty from being brutally killed.
After years of researching and gathering all the information available concerning his sister’s death, Bill Genovese released “The Witness” in 2015. Directed by James Solomon, “The Witness” follows Bill on his quest to find some piece of mind after losing the most important person in his life when he was just a kid.
“My sister’s been the symbol of bystander apathy for decades. The girl no one cared about,” states Bill at the beginning of the documentary, currently streaming on Netflix. “But recently ‘The Times’ published a new article. It challenged the accuracy of its original report. And others now claim the story of 38 witnesses is more myth than fact.”
After watching the film, many social media users have described their experience as eye opening and mind-blowing.
“Wow. The Witness – Kitty Genovese documentary on Netflix has really moved me. Insightful!” wrote TV presenter and blogger Ferne McCann.
Wow. The Witness – Kitty Genovese documentary on #netflix has really moved me. Insightful!
— Ferne McCann (@fernemccann) October 15, 2016
Here are 11 things Bill Genovese discovered throughout his investigation:
1)The 38 witnesses are in fact a myth.
“I can’t swear to God that there were 38 people,” said former news editor A.M. Rosenthal during his interview with Bill Genovese. “Some people say there were more, some people say there were less, but what was true…people all over the world were affected by it. Did it do anything? You bet your eye it did something, and I’m glad it did.”
2)Some of the 38 witnesses did not know they were being named as such on the police reports.
During his investigation, Bill had the chance to speak to Lynne Tillotson, a former resident at the Mowbray, the building where Kitty lived.
“In my research, your name and your mom’s name is down there as saying, ‘I heard, George, he’s…’ Eh, let me get it right, ‘George, he’s, he’s done it to me. George he’s done it to me.’ Twice. And then, ‘Please help me,’” Bill tells a noticeably surprised Lynn. “So, you and your mom, you were probably counted as part of the 38. And according to your remembering, your mom never said anything?”
“No, as far as I know, she never spoke to the police at all,” Lynn replies. “Wow, I have no idea who George is but I, I never heard of anything like that. And as far as I know momma was asleep. That is shocking. Wow.”
3)Kitty didn’t die alone, her friend Sophia Farrar got to her before she passed.
“She was my friend and I knew she was hurt,” Farrar tells Bill during the most revealing interview of the documentary, the one that proves that someone cared. “And I…and she needed help. That was my reason for flying down those stairs. And then, when I came in, I’ll never forget the black…it kills me when I think about it. The black leather gloves and all cuts, all through the gloves on her both hands. I only hope that she knew it was me.”
4)Kitty’s family was unaware of the attempt of rape during the attack.
5)Kitty had a chance to survive.
According to several reports, Kitty’s killer, Winston Moseley, fled the scene after stabbing the 28-year-old bar manager for the first time. When he realized no one was coming to her rescue, he returned to put an end to her life.
6)Mary Ann Zielonko, Kitty’s lover, identified the body the day after the murder.
7)While doing time for Kitty’s murder, Moseley managed to escape prison.
During his time as a fugitive, he broke into houses, raped a woman at gunpoint, and took hostages when the FBI closed in. According to the NYT, Moseley confessed to the murders of Ms. Genovese and two other Queen residents: Annie Mae Johnson and Barbara Kralik.
8)Winston Moseley’s son, Steven Moseley, believes his father killed Kitty because she was racist.
“Only thing I know is from what he’s told me,” Moseley’s son tells Bill during their chat. “He said he just snapped out. Because there was some racial tensions going on back then. And your sister was using a lot of racial slurs at him and he just lost it. That’s what he told me.”
9)Kitty’s most famous picture of her is a mug shot.
“For years, I wondered where did this image come from?” Bill narrates in “The Witness.” “It wasn’t until I looked closely that I noticed a piece of string hanging around her neck, a piece of string that would’ve held up her arrest identification.”
10)Kitty’s tragic story has been used as a plot line in major TV shows: Perry Mason (1965), All In The Family (1972), Law & Order (1994).
11)Winston Moseley died in prison on March 28, 2016. He was 81.