Witnesses Ignored Her Screams for Help, But Her Brutal Murder Inspired the Creation of 911

It was around 3 a.m. on March 13, 1964, when 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was raped and stabbed to death outside of her apartment in Queens, New York. She had just finished her bartending shift at Ev’s Eleventh Hour Sports Bar when Winston Moseley attacked her.

Moseley was out on the prowl looking for a victim simple because he desired “to kill a woman.” It just so happened that Genovese was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

On the outside, he lived a fairly normal life–he was married and owned a house, where he lived with his wife and their two children. But upon further examination, it was clear that he had psychotic compulsions.

While his wife was still asleep, Moseley got out of bed around 2 a.m. and began driving around town. When he saw the young women exit her vehicle and begin walking up the street, he ran over and stabbed her in the back. That’s when she began screaming out in agony and for help.

One neighbor heard the commotion and yelled out of his window, scaring Moseley off. He went back inside his car and hid a couple blocks down the road.

All alone and bleeding to death, Genovese made her way to complex’s entrance but was unable to reach her apartment.

Moseley waited to see if the police would show up, and when they failed to, he went on a search for his victim.

After discovering her body in the lobby, he continued to stab her, rape her, and steal $49, before escaping.

Another one of her neighbor’s opened his front door and saw that she was in trouble, but rather than coming out to help, he immediately closed it. There are reports that allege Karl Ross proceeded to call the police once back inside, however when he was interviewed, explained that he wasn’t interested in getting involved.

It took Moseley approximately 30 minutes to kill Genovese.

The press later reported that 38 witnesses heard her screams, but decided not to intervene. Not one single person ever came outside to see what was really going on.

Why didn’t anyone at the scene help her?

According to social psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané, it’s because of “the bystander effect.” They hypothesized that since there were so many witnesses nobody intervened because everyone thought someone else would step up to the plate, so they didn’t have to.

Moseley remained on the run until he was arrested for stealing a TV from a residence.

At the police station, he ended up confessing to the murder, along with two other homicides, and countless burglaries. He was initially sentenced to death, but an appeal reduced that sentence to life in prison.

Her brutal murder is what helped create the emergency phone number 911. At the time, the only way people could reach out to police was to contact their local precinct.