The case is synonymous with “urban apathy.” The victim’s name, Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, still evokes a sense of lonely horror.
It was March 1964, in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York. At three A.M., the 28-year-old Genovese parked her red Fiat at the railway station and began the 100-foot walk to her apartment building. A man stood on the dimly lighted street between Genovese and her home. She was worried, and turned to walk to a police call box. The man pursued her.
Screams pierced the early-morning silence on Austin Street. “Oh my God he stabbed me,” Genovese called. “Please help me.”
The street’s residents switched on lights, and threw open shades and windows. “Leave that girl alone,” a man shouted.
The attacker moved away from Genovese. She was bleeding, stumbling toward her apartment as windows closed and lights dimmed. And then the man came back.
The man was Winston Moseley, 29, married, no criminal record. His account of that evening was his confession to the murder of Catherine Genovese as 38 witnesses watched.
“I got in the car and drove to Queens Boulevard and Yellowstone Avenue and I started cruising the neighborhood looking for a woman alone in a car. About three o'clock I did manage to find one on the street I don't know, say about ten blocks from her house and I followed her. She drove to a parking lot and stopped her car. As soon as she stopped hers I was following her and I stopped mine. While she was getting out of her car I had already gotten out of mine and I ran into the parking lot before she really got out of the car. She got out of the car and she saw me and she was frightened right away and she started to run. I ran after her and stabbed her twice in the back. Somebody yelled and I was frightened so I jumped back into the car, backed the car back to the nearest cross street and backed down this street about half a block. I decided that even though the person had yelled they weren't going to come down to the street to see what had happened to her and I had noticed as I was backing the car back that the woman had gotten up and appeared to be going around the corner, so I came back thinking that I would find her.”
Moseley’s assessment proved correct. He retreated a second time when the night filled with screams and tenants shouted. When the street quieted, he returned a third time.
“I came back into the parking lot and thought maybe she had gone to the train station. She wasn't in the train station. It was locked so I said, "Well," to myself, "Well, perhaps she is in one of these hallways. I tried the first door in this row of houses and the door was locked. The second door I tried opened, I opened, and there she was lying on the floor. When she saw me she started screaming again so I stabbed her a few more times. She seemed to quiet down a bit, so she wasn't really struggling with me that hard now.”
At 3:50 A.M., one of the 38 witnesses called police. Genovese was already dead, stabbed 17 times. Moseley had 35 minutes and three tries to kill her.
Winston Moseley was a talker. He had an uncontrollable urge to kill, he told police. Nights, while his wife worked, he prowled the streets seeking victims. He preferred women, he said, “because they were easier and didn’t fight back.” Sure, he had killed Genovese, he said. He also confessed to two other homicides — the savage murders of Barbara Kralik, 15, and Annie Mae Johnson, 24 — and numerous rapes and burglaries. Moseley did not enjoy sex with a living partner. The excitement he craved was not there.
“I went out that night intending to kill a woman,” Moseley said of the night of March 13.
Once he made the decision, it was all that mattered. He would not be distracted. He was on a mission fueled by his fantasies, driven to make real the tape loop he played over and over in his head.
The court disregarded Moseley’s insanity plea. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. On appeal, the sentence was commuted to life. The court had failed to consider testimony regarding Moseley’s mental condition.
The world had not heard the last from Winston Moseley. In 1968, Moseley was brought to a Buffalo hospital for minor surgery. He overcame a guard, grabbed a gun, and took five hostages, sexually assaulting one of them. Following a tense standoff, Moseley was returned to prison.
Through the years he has applied for parole and been denied. Moseley claimed to have written to the Genovese family apologizing for any inconvenience he might have caused them. To say that he is incapable of appreciating the impact of his behavior would be an understatement.
“For a victim outside,” he told the parole board, “it’s a one-time or one-hour or one-minute affair, but for the person who’s caught, it’s forever.” Translation: Victims get off easy. Perps suffer.
Why would anyone care who Winston Moseley is? The year was 1964. Albert DeSalvo was a free man in Boston. Ted Bundy was 17 years old. Derrick Todd Lee, the accused Baton Rouge serial killer (and a black man like Moseley), had not been born. Moseley was a preview of coming attractions. He had all the characteristics of the narcissistic psychopath, the human predator, and he was a talker.
Perhaps we should have listened.
Winston Moseley is 69 years old, a maximum-security inmate next eligible for parole in 2004.