A Cry in the Night
Along a serene, tree-lined street in the Kew Gardens section of Queens, New York City, Catherine Genovese began the last walk of her life in the early morning hours of March 13, 1964. She had just left work, and it was 3:15 a.m. when she parked her red Fiat in the Long Island Railroad parking lot 20 feet from her apartment door at 82-70 Austin Street. As she locked her car door, she took notice of a figure in the darkness walking quickly toward her. She became immediately concerned as soon as the stranger began to follow her. “As she got out of the car she saw me and ran,” the man told the court later, “I ran after her and I had a knife in my hand.” She must have thought that since the entrance to her building was so close, she would reach safety within seconds. But the man was faster than she thought. At the corner of Austin Street and Lefferts Boulevard, there was a police call box, which linked directly to the 112th Precinct. She may have changed direction to call for assistance, but it was too late. The man caught up with Catherine, who was all of 5’1” and weighed just 105 pounds, near a street light at the end of the parking lot.
Long Island Railroad parking lot on Austin Street.
(Photo taken by author)
“I could run much faster than she could, and I jumped on her back and stabbed her several times,” the man later told cops.
“Oh my God! He stabbed me!” she screamed. “Please help me! Please help me!” Some apartment lights went on in nearby buildings. Irene Frost at 82-68 Austin Street heard Catherine’s screams plainly. “There was another shriek,” she later testified in court, “and she was lying down crying out.” Up on the seventh floor of the same building, Robert Mozer slid open his window and observed the struggle below.
Alley behind Austin Street apartment building where victim was murdered.
(photo by author)
“Hey, let that girl alone!” he yelled down into the street. The attacker heard Mozer and immediately walked away. There was quiet once again in the dark. The only sound was the sobbing of the victim, struggling to her feet. The lights in the apartment went out again. Catherine, bleeding badly from several stab wounds, managed to reach the side of her building and held onto the concrete wall. She staggered over to a locked door and tried to stay conscious. Within five minutes, the assailant returned. He stabbed her again.
“I’m dying! I’m dying!” she cried to no one. But several people in her building heard her screams. Lights went on once again and some windows opened. Tenants tried to see what was happening from the safety of their apartments. The attacker then ran to a white Chevy Corvair at the edge of the railroad parking lot and seemed to drive away. On the sixth floor of 82-40 Austin Street, Marjorie and Samuel Koshkin witnessed the attack from their window. “I saw a man hurry to a car under my window,” he said later. “He left and came back five minutes later and was looking around the area.” Mr. Koshkin wanted to call the police, but Mrs. Koshkin thought otherwise. “I didn’t let him,” she later said to the press. “I told him there must have been 30 calls already.” Miss Andre Picq, a French girl, who lived on the second floor, heard the commotion from her window. “I heard a scream for help, three times,“ she later told the court, “I saw a girl lying down on the pavement with a man bending down over her, beating her.”
The door to 82-62 Austin Street where “Kitty” Genovese was found bleeding to death on the night of March 13, 1964.
(photo by author)
At about 3:25 a.m., Catherine, bleeding badly, stumbled to the rear of her apartment building and attempted to enter through a back entrance. The door was locked. She slid along the wall until she reached a hallway leading to the 2nd floor of 82-62 Austin Street but she fell to the vestibule floor. In the meantime, the man had returned again. “I came back because I knew I’d not finished what I set out to do,” he told cops later. He walked along the row of doors and calmly searched for the woman. He checked the first door and didn’t find her. He followed the trail of blood to the doorway where Catherine lay bleeding on the tiled floor. And there, while the defenseless victim lay semiconscious, incoherent from pain and loss of blood, he cut off her bra and underwear and sexually assaulted her. He then took $49 in cash from her wallet. “Why would I throw money away?” he asked the court at his trial. As Catherine moaned at his feet, probably unable to comprehend what had happened to her, the man viciously stabbed her again and killed her.
The man, who had selected his victim purely at random, ran to his car still parked where he left it. The entire event lasted at least 32 minutes. He said later that murder “was an idea that came into my mind, just as an idea might come into your mind, but I couldn’t put mine aside.” He jumped into his white sedan and fled the scene. A few blocks away, he came to a red light. He glanced over at the car idling next to him and saw that a man was asleep behind the wheel. The killer got out of his car and awakened the sleeping driver. He told the man he should go home. Then the killer, full of himself, $49 richer and not at all ashamed of what he had done, got back into his own car and drove off into the night.
Catherine was his third murder.
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