Never fear, I didn’t get murdered, I was just on vacation. I’m back and hoping to update this blog a couple times a month when I get the chance to indulge in some true crime/murder media. I have a busy schedule and nothing relaxes me more at the end of a long day like a true crime documentary or television show.
Speaking of which, I have a short review of a documentary I recently watched on Netflix and cannot recommend enough.
“The Witness” (2015) is an incredibly moving documentary centered around the firsthand account of Bill Genovese, brother of famous stabbing victim Kitty Genovese, trying to get to get closer to his sister by getting to the bottom of her death.
Although the man who murdered Kitty Genovese, Winston Moseley, confessed and was imprisoned for the crime, Bill was young at the time of Kitty’s death and therefore wasn’t told many details of the case. His choice to dredge up the past, which many of his family members do not fully agree with, is born out of a desire to know more about his sister. Bill was 16 years old when Kitty died and said that at that age, he felt Kitty was the only one who understood him. However, his search for the truth about her murder reveals that he didn’t understand much about her life or death.
Bill Genovese is the perfect hero of this story. His desperate need to be closer to his sister and understand why the reported 38 witnesses to her attack didn’t do more to help is chilling right down to the bone. He himself is no stranger to tragedy, having lost both his legs in Vietnam. The apathy towards his sister’s murder is part of what inspired him to enlist in the Marines and go to Vietnam in the first place, which is doubly tragic.
This crime is where the idea of “the bystander effect” (also called “Genovese syndrome”) originated. Popularized by social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley, there are two main components: the perceived diffusion of responsibility (onlookers are more likely to intervene if there are few or no other witnesses) and social influence (when the individuals in a group monitor the behavior of those around them to determine how to act). We see it in society constantly, from the smaller (but still critical) scale of children being bullied in school to murders like Kitty’s.
Without spoiling the documentary too much, the heartbreaking ending left me feeling determined to never be a bystander and I hope it does the same for the rest of you.
In learning about Kitty’s death, Bill seeks to also learn more about her life. He talks to some of her friends from high school and work who saw her more mischievous and independent side. Through them, he learns she was a lesbian and her “roommate” was actually her lover, and that she was a barmaid who loved to be “one of the boys.” Bill even gets the chance to talk to Kitty’s former lover and roommate on the phone. The heart wrenching call is played in the film but her face is not shown, giving viewers the opportunity to hear from another person who loved Kitty.
I have no doubt that if my sibling was brutally murdered, I would do what Bill did: never stop trying to make sense of it and find answers, even when I knew there were no more answers left to be found.
Have you seen “The Witness”? Do you have any true crime documentary recommendations?
P.S. – Keep an eye out for a post later this week that goes in depth on Kitty Genovese’s monstrous killer, Winston Moseley.