Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Kitty Genovese, Revised

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Kitty Genovese, Revised

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "Nightmare on Austin Street" by Jim Rasenberger, in American Heritage, Oct. 2006.

THE STORY APPEARED AT THE bottom of the front page of The New York Times on March 27, 1964. It began, "For more than half an hour, 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.

"Twice the sound of their voices and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead."

The killing of Kitty Genovese by a mentally ill machine operator named Winston Moseley led to more than 1,000 books, articles, plays, scripts, and songs--not about the crime, but about the Bad Samaritans, the 38 ordinary Americans who watched their neighbor die.

But the story wasn't quite true, writes Jim Rasenberger, an author and screenwriter. It is true that neighbors should have done more to help Genovese when she was chased and stabbed after returning at 3AM from her job as a bar manager. And it is true that some people, perhaps as many as seven, saw something of an attack, and a larger number heard her call for help.

Other conclusions and facts, however, were exaggerated or wrong, Rasenberger writes. Moseley didn't attack her three times, but two. The police got that wrong. Thirty-eight people could not physically have watched the murder because of the geography of the site. …

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