Tributes to Sheldon Seevak

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Posted September 13, 2009 in Bystanders
"The Night That 38 Stood By As A Life Was Lost," New York Times (March 12, 1984)

It flashes through Margaret Swinchoski's mind, each time she walks past the Kew Gardens, Queens, train station: This was where Kitty Genovese met her killer.

Even in the small town in Vermont where Miss Swinchoski grew up, Catherine Genovese's case became a shocking symbol of apathy.

Now Miss Swinchoski lives in the same quiet, middle-class neighborhood where Miss Genovese was slain 20 years ago as she tried to make her way from her car, parked in the train station lot, to her apartment on Austin Street.

'What Might Happen'

For more than half an hour that night, Miss Genovese's killer stalked and stabbed her, again and again, as 38 of her neighbors silently turned away from her cries.

''I walk here during the day but not at night,'' said Miss Swinchoski, a 25-year-old flutist, ''because of what happened then and because of what might happen now.''

The killer, Winston Moseley, had followed Miss Genovese into the parking lot at 3:20 A.M. on March 13, 1964.

Mr. Moseley, a 29-year-old machine operator and family man, was convicted after he confessed that he had been cruising around, planning ''to rape and to rob and to kill a girl.'' He is serving a life sentence in Green Haven state prison, and was recently denied parole.

Mr. Moseley attacked Miss Genovese for the first time in front of the Austin Book Shop as she ran up the street, apparently toward a police call box. ''Oh, my God, he stabbed me,'' she screamed into the early-morning stillness. ''Please help me!'' Windows opened and lights went on in the building across the street.

''Let that girl alone,'' yelled a man on the seventh floor. Mr. Moseley walked toward his car. As he later told the police, ''I had a feeling this man would close his window and go back to sleep and then I would return.''

Miss Genovese staggered around the corner and fell inside the lobby of the first unlocked building she could find.

As witnesses watched from behind their curtains - one couple pulled up chairs to the window and turned out the light to see better - Mr. Moseley came back and calmly poked into doors until he found his victim. He stabbed her eight more times and sexually molested her.

First Call to Police

It was 3:50 A.M. when the police received their first call - from a man who said he did not want to ''get involved.''

Bernard Titowsky, owner of the Austin Book Shop, recalls coming in the next morning and finding blood near the door. ''Time and rain washed most of it away,'' he said Saturday, sitting on a stool behind his antique cash register.

Mr. Titowsky and many other longtime residents remain sensitive about the case and say the residents were unfairly portrayed as callous. ''No one wants to give the people that lived here any credit,'' he said. ''They just want to use it as a sociology lesson.''

A Woman Who Remembers

Most of the witnesses have moved away, or died. One who remembers is an 83-year-old woman, who lived next door to Miss Genovese. She was awakened at 3:30 A.M. that night when a friend called to say he had seen the attack but was intoxicated and did not want to deal with the police.

She put on a coat over her nightgown and went down the street to find a door ajar and Miss Genovese crumpled behind it. ''She was dying,'' the woman recalled. ''She was making noises like, 'Uh, uh, uh,' like she couldn't breathe.'' The woman then went to a neighbor, who called the police.

The woman said she wished people would forget. ''We weren't apathetic,'' she said. ''There are good people here. There's so much else bad in the world. Poor Kitty.''

Category: Bystanders