Tag Archives: Catherine Pelonero

50 Years Later, Kitty Genovese Murder Case Still Grips NYC, Nation


50 Years Later, Kitty Genovese Murder Case Still Grips NYC, Nation

CBS New York, March 11, 2014

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Kitty Genovese’s screams for help couldn’t save her on the night she was murdered outside her apartment building in 1964. Fifty years later, those screams still echo, a symbol of urban breakdown and city dwellers’ seeming callousness toward their neighbors.

The case “caught the spirit of the time,” said Thomas Reppetto, a police historian. “It seemed to symbolize that society no longer cared about other people.”

Genovese’s random stabbing by Winston Moseley on March 13, 1964, in Kew Gardens, Queens, became a sensation when The New York Times reported that “38 respectable, law-abiding citizens” in Queens watched the attack over more than half an hour and didn’t call police until it was too late.

While the number of people who saw or heard the crime has since become a matter of dispute, Genovese’s murder left its mark on public policy and psychology.

It has been credited with spurring adoption of the 911 system in 1968 as well as “Good Samaritan” laws that give legal protection to people who help those in trouble.

The case also gave rise to research into the “bystander effect” — the phenomenon in which a group of onlookers fails to help someone in distress — and is often featured in psychology textbooks.

At least five books about Genovese’s killing have come out recently or will be published this year, a testament to the enduring fascination with the case.

“Many people were murdered that year, over 600, but she haunts us because she could have been helped and nobody did,” said Peter Hellman, a journalist and author of the e-book “Fifty Years After Kitty Genovese, Inside the Case That Rocked Our Faith in Each Other.”

According to police reports and trial testimony, Genovese was a 28-year-old bar manager living in a seemingly safe, well-kept Queens neighborhood when she was attacked while returning home from work after 3 a.m.

Moseley later told police he had been driving around looking for a woman to kill. He spotted Genovese, chased her and stabbed her in the back. Genovese screamed, and a neighbor yelled from his window, “Leave that girl alone!”

Moseley retreated to his car but returned minutes later and found Genovese in a hallway at the back of her building, where she had collapsed. He stabbed her several more times and raped her as she lay dying.

The story was not widely reported until A.M. Rosenthal, then metro editor of the Times, had lunch with Police Commissioner Michael Murphy, who told him about the 38 witnesses. Rosenthal assigned a reporter to write a story about the neighbors’ apathy.

“I didn’t want to get involved,” one neighbor was quoted as saying.

The story seemed to show that New York was an urban hell where no one would lift a finger to help a neighbor.

“It fit some people’s anti-New York perspective,” said Philip Zimbardo, a retired professor of psychology at Stanford University.

Some later accounts of Genovese’s murder challenged the Times’ version.

Kevin Cook, author of “Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America,” argues that only a few neighbors saw enough of the attack to understand much of what was going on, and some of them did try to help.

The Times revisited the case in 2004 on the 40th anniversary. A former prosecutor told the paper then that while far fewer than 38 saw the murder, many others heard the screams.

Catherine Pelonero argues in her book “Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and its Private Consequences” that the reporting from 1964 was fundamentally correct: “Many people heard the screams and had very good reasonable cause to believe that a crime was taking place.”

“The most chilling part is that once she reached the back of the building, she was lying down there for several minutes calling for help,” Pelonero added. “She was saying, ‘It’s Kitty! I’m stabbed! Help me!’”

Moseley was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, a punishment later reduced to life in prison.

He escaped during a transfer to a hospital in Buffalo in 1968, took five people hostage and raped a woman in front of her husband before surrendering to police. Now 79, Moseley is one of the longest-serving inmates in the New York state prison system.

In reaction to the case, Fordham University Professor Harold Takooshian began studying bystander behavior as a graduate student in 1978. Working under the social psychologist Stanley Milgram, Takooshian conducted experiments that involved pretending to commit crimes to observe bystanders’ reaction.

“The field emerged entirely because of her, and now it’s a very large field,” Takooshian said.

Genovese emerges in the new books as a compelling figure in her own right, a high-spirited young woman known as the class cut-up in high school.

The oldest in an Italian-American family of five children, Genovese grew up in Brooklyn and stayed in New York when the rest of her family moved to New Canaan, Conn., in the mid-1950s. At the time of her death, she had been living with a partner, Mary Ann Zielonko, for about a year.

“She was a daughter and a sister and a lover and a colleague,” said James Solomon, a filmmaker who is working with Genovese’s younger brother on a documentary about Genovese called “The Witness.” “She wasn’t just a victim.”

Pelonero, who spent years corresponding with Moseley called Genovese’s killer an “intriguing character” who is in intelligent and well-read but who seems to be incapable of feeling remorse.

“This was a man who had a family, owned a home, went to work every day, and at night he would sometimes go out and kill women,” Pelonero told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu. “So he very much led a double life. And I thought that was just so intriguing, and it’s so difficult to understand why someone would do that.”

Speaking Engagement & Book Signing at California Writers Club

California Writers ClubCatherine Pelonero will be a guest speaker on Saturday, November 1, 2014 at the California Writers Club where she will give a talk, “Writing the Nonfiction Book: How to Write and Sell a True Story.” A question and answer session will follow. Copies of her book, Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and its Private Consequences will be available for sale.

The event is open to the public. Admission for members of the California Writers Club is free. Non-members are asked to make a $5.00 tax-deductible donation as admission.


Saturday, November 1 at 2:00 p.m.- 3:00 p.m.


California Writers Club – San Fernando Valley Branch

Motion Picture Television Fund
Villa Katzenberg
23388 Mulholland Drive
Woodland Hills, CA 91364

From the 101 freeway, exit on Mulholland Drive South. Proceed to Steven Spielberg Drive and turn right into the campus. (If questioned at the gate, tell the attendant you are there for a CWC meeting.) At the ‘T’, turn left and follow the road to the large parking lot on the left for Villa Katzenberg. Parking is free in any of the lots. (No street parking.)

Venue location & parking:

Cal Writers map

Book Signing at Burbank Library

Burbank Library Buena Vista Branch

Burbank Library Buena Vista Branch

Book Signing at Burbank Library

Catherine Pelonero will meet readers and sign books at the Burbank Public Library, 300 N. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA on Saturday, October 18 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Copies of her book, Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and its Private Consequences, will be available for purchase. If you already have a copy of Kitty Genovese, bring it along and have it signed!

Pelonero appears as part of the Local Authors’ Showcase, a presentation of the Burbank Public Library where visitors can meet over 50 authors in person. Attendees can meet writers, browse books, buy books, and enter to win a Kindle Fire! The event is free of charge and open to all. Please visit the library’s website for more information: http://www.burbanklibrary.com/event/2014/oct/local-authors-showcase

Date: Saturday, October 18, 2014

Time: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Location: Burbank Public Library, 300 N. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91505

Book Signing at Talking Leaves

Talking Leaves bookstore, 951 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, NY 14222

Talking Leaves bookstore, 951 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, NY 14222

Catherine Pelonero visited Talking Leaves bookstore in Buffalo, New York on Thursday, May 1, 2014 to sign copies of her book, Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and its Private Consequences.

Talking Leaves is Buffalo’s oldest independent bookstore. The Kitty Genovese book signing was held at the Elmwood location of Talking Leaves, 951 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14222. On the web: http://www.tleavesbooks.com/

The signing followed an appearance by Pelonero on Channel 7’s AM Buffalo on the morning of May 1.

Author Catherine Pelonero is originally from Buffalo, where she studied playwriting with Buffalo’s esteemed dramatist, the late Emanuel “Manny” Fried. Her work was first produced and published in her hometown.

Pelonero became intrigued by the Kitty Genovese case and its Buffalo connection (killer Winston Moseley escaped from a Buffalo hospital in 1968 and went on a violent crime spree before being recaptured in Grand Island). Her book includes a full account of Moseley’s dramatic escape and crimes in Buffalo.

Catherine Pelonero is married to fellow Buffalo native Josh Brewster, a graduate of the University at Buffalo and currently a National Hockey League radio broadcaster for the Anaheim Ducks. They live in Los Angeles with their two sons.

Book Review: The Advocate


Anger, Anguish Murder case highlighted ‘moral vacancy,’ led to creation of 911 system


“Kitty Genovese: A True Account of a Public Murder and its Private Consequences” by Catherine Pelonero. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014. $24.95

Shortly after 3 a.m. on March 13, 1964, Winston Moseley assaulted, raped and stabbed to death Catherine “Kitty” Genovese as she returned to her apartment in Kew Gardens, a middle-class neighborhood of Queens, New York.

Twenty-nine years old, petite, vivacious and fiercely independent, she was the manager of a local tavern, Ev’s Eleventh Hour.

Her suffering lasted more than a half-hour and took place along two well-lit streets bordered by large apartment buildings.

Thirty-eight residents witnessed at least something of the attack; 62 others heard her screams. Only one called the police. Two came to her rescue when her assailant was gone and she had only moments to live.

These numbers are known exactly because homicide detectives interviewed everyone in the area and were appalled by such “moral vacancy.” Over and over, they heard, “I didn’t want to get involved.”

Read the full review in The Advocate

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