In the early hours of March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment building in Kew Gardens, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. Two weeks later, The New York Times published an article claiming that 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack, but none of them called the police or came to her aid. The incident prompted inquiries into what became known as the bystander effect or "Genovese syndrome", and the murder became a staple of American psychology textbooks for the next four decades. However, researchers have since uncovered major inaccuracies in the New York Times article.
Reporters at a competing news organization discovered in 1964 that the article was inconsistent with the facts, but they were unwilling at the time to challenge New York Times editor Abe Rosenthal. In 2007, an article in the American Psychologist found "no evidence for the presence of 38 witnesses, or that witnesses observed the murder, or that witnesses remained inactive". In 2016, The New York Times called its own reporting "flawed", stating that the original story "grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived".
Winston Moseley, a 29-year-old Manhattan native, was arrested during a house burglary six days after the murder. While in custody, he confessed to killing Genovese. At his trial, Moseley was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death; this sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment. Moseley died in prison on March 28, 2016, at the age of 81, having served 52 years.
Catherine Susan "Kitty" Genovese (July 7, 1935 – March 13, 1964) was born in Brooklyn, New York City, the eldest of five children of Italian American parents Rachel (née Giordano) 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-girlProspect 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. Later that year, the couple wed, but the marriage was annulled near the end of 1954.
After moving into an apartment in Brooklyn, Genovese worked in clerical jobs, which she found unappealing. By the late 1950s, she had accepted a job as a bartender; at the time of her murder, she was working as a bar manager at Ev's Eleventh Hour Bar on Jamaica Avenue and 193rd Street in Hollis, Queens. She shared her Kew Gardens apartment at 82–70 Austin Street with her girlfriend Mary Ann Zielonko whom she met in 1963.