Features and Columns

Online Edition Friday July 18, 2008
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Mike Barry

Eye On The Island

Kitty Genovese was murdered more than 44 years ago in Kew Gardens, Queens but legend has it that 30-plus neighbors either heard or saw her early morning cries for help, and ignored them.

That number is a bit high, according to Charles Skoller, the Queens assistant district attorney who successfully prosecuted Genovese's killer, Winston Moseley of South Ozone Park. Skoller sets the record straight in Twisted Confessions: The True Story Behind the Kitty Genovese and Barbara Kralik Murder Trials (Bridgeway Books, April 2008). The author, who is retired and now lives in Florida, will be at the Barnes & Noble, 396 Avenue of the Americas, at 8th Street, Manhattan, on Friday, July 25 at 7:30 p.m. to talk about his book.

Two men, and as many as four other neighbors, could possibly have saved the 29-year-old Genovese from being stabbed to death by Moseley, Skoller writes, and their indifference is truly shocking. One man, seeing the first of the two separate attacks, which occurred about 20 minutes apart, did not even call the police and went to sleep while another called his girl friend to see what he should do. Yet the Queens assistant DA didn't need much evidence to gain a conviction because Moseley admitted to killing Genovese, co-manager of a bar and grill restaurant in Hollis, Queens.

The problem for Skoller and then-Queens district attorney Frank O'Connor (1909-1992) was that, when Moseley confessed to the March 1964 killing of Genovese, Moseley also told the police he was responsible for the July 1963 stabbing death of 15-year-old Barbara Kralik in Springfield Gardens, Queens. This turn of events stunned the Queens DA's office because Alvin Mitchell of Astoria had already been indicted and was awaiting trial on charges that he murdered Kralik, who was killed after midnight as she slept in her bed. Her family was in the house at the time of the attack, too.

Queens DA O'Connor had assistant DA Skoller proceed with Mitchell's trial, which ended in a hung jury. That result came about largely because Moseley testified that he was the one who murdered Kralik. At the second trial, things were quite different because Moseley changed his tune and Skoller found a key witness who was unknown to the prosecution during the first trial. Mitchell was convicted of manslaughter.

The pressure was on Skoller at Mitchell's second trial because DA O'Connor, who was the Democratic nominee for New York governor in 1966, told him the Queens DA's office was not going to proceed with a third trial if there was another hung jury.

Twisted Confessions is aimed at readers who want to learn more about the Genovese case but the book focuses primarily on the Kralik murder and few remember the sad story: a troubled, drunken teenager sneaked into the bedroom of his girlfriend's friend, mistakenly believing his girlfriend was there for a sleepover party. Mayhem ensued.

The Genovese case endures because neither the victim nor the killer knew one another and their two, violent random encounters were seen by a number of individuals who chose to do nothing to stop it.

More on the author and the book can be found online at www.twistedconfessionsbook.com.

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