As is most often the case, it takes a tragedy to catalyze the creation of something that should have existed long beforehand, such as traffic lights, Amber Alerts, seat belt laws, etc. There is a tragic story to be found in most of the safety features in our life if we take a look at their origin, and the story behind the creation of the 911 Operator is no different. Nowadays we just take it for granted, and more often than not when there is a crime committed multiple calls are received concerning the same incident. However; there were not numerous calls during the murder of Kitty Genovese, although dozens of people witnessed her attack. At least, that's what was initially reported. No one paid attention as the young woman was brutally assaulted and therein lies the tragic story of the murder that started the 911 emergency call line. Continue reading to learn more about the case of Kitty Genovese.
Catherine “Kitty" Genovese was born on July 7, 1935, in Brooklyn, NY. She was the oldest of five children born to Vincent and Rachel Genovese. In 1954, shortly after Genovese’s high school graduation, her family moved to Connecticut, and she decided to stay in Brooklyn with her grandparents. Soon after, Genovese got married, but the union would not last. The marriage was annulled the same year.
By 1963, Genovese had met Mary Ann Zielonko at an underground lesbian bar. The two became a couple and were living together in an apartment in Queens at the time of Genovese’s death. During the Genovese murder trial, Zielonko was forced to refer to herself as Genovese’s friend or roommate, due to the fact officials felt her gay relationship would take away from the tragedy of the case. In fact, it was not revealed to the public that Genovese was a lesbian until 40 years after her death.
Genovese worked as a bar manager at Ev's Eleventh Hour Bar in Queens and loved her job and the patrons of the bar. It was Genovese’s dream to one day own her own restaurant and managing the bar was giving her a lot of experience to reach her goal.
On March 13, 1964, Genovese left the bar where she worked at approximately 2:30 AM and began the drive home. Unbeknownst to her, someone was watching her from another car. She arrived home at 3:15 and parked her car in the train station parking lot, which was about 100 feet from her apartment. The man who had been watching her had followed her home, and he approached her with a knife in his hand. Genovese noticed the man and began running, but he caught up to her and stabbed her twice in the back. Genovese started screaming for help, which alerted others to the scene and they began yelling for the perpetrator to leave her alone. The yelling scared the man, and he left.
Genovese was seriously injured but managed to crawl inside her apartment building. The perpetrator came back ten minutes later and searched the area for Genovese, where he found her in the apartment hallway. He proceeded to stab Genovese several more times and then rape her. He stole $49 from her and left for the second time. A (second) call was made to the police, and an ambulance came for Genovese, but she died en route to the hospital.
The front page of the New York Times two weeks after the Genovese Murder stated 38 witnesses watched the murder for 30 minutes without doing anything. But were there really 38 witnesses? Evidence suggests there were not, but after the article ran other newspapers and media reported the same story. While some witnesses reported hearing or seeing something going on, no one knew for sure what exactly was happening. The crime took place at 3 in the morning so most people were asleep when the attack occurred, and while a few woke up to hear Genovese’s screams, it was dark, and people didn't know if it was a married couple fighting or what was going on. In the end, two people did call the police. An elderly woman also went outside and stayed with Genovese, holding her until help arrived.
On March 19, 1964, police arrested a man, Winston Moseley, who was caught burglarizing a home. During police questioning, Moseley confessed to police that he was responsible for the murder of Genovese. He went into detail about the crime and explained he had the desire to kill a woman and how easy it was to do so since they didn't fight back. He confessed to other crimes as well.
During the trial, Moseley pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but was found guilty and sentenced to death. A year later, his sentence was reduced to life with the possibility of parole.