Mary Ann Zielonko, Partner of Kitty Genovese, Dies at 85

For 60 years, Kitty Genovese has endured as a symbol of big-city apathy, the victim not only of a knife-wielding killer but also of her neighbors’ reluctance to get involved. Two weeks after a man named Winston Moseley stalked, raped and murdered her in Queens late at night in March 1964, a New York Times article reported that 38 of her neighbors had heard her cries for help, yet did nothing.

That account turned out to be significantly flawed. Most of those 38 people were unaware of what was actually happening; they thought they were merely hearing a fight, perhaps a lovers’ quarrel. Investigations later determined that few of them had caught even a glimpse of the attacks. Nonetheless, the death of 28-year-old Catherine Susan Genovese has long remained a paradigm of urban anonymity and indifference.

Kitty Genovese at work as a bar manager in an undated photo.Credit…New York Daily News, via Associated Press

Something else was out of kilter in the reporting back then. Ms. Genovese had been living for a year with Mary Ann Zielonko. In those days they were typically referred to as roommates. In fact, they were lovers. When the police investigators became aware of that, they questioned Ms. Zielonko as a possible suspect. After a night of bowling with friends, she had been asleep in their Kew Gardens apartment while the attack took place below.

“I was very numb, I would say, from the whole thing,” she told Retro Report, a series of video documentaries exploring old news stories and their lasting effects, in 2016. “I felt, wow, she was so close, and I was sleeping, and I didn’t know what happened, and that I could have saved her. You know? That’s what I really think still.”

Ms. Zielonko died on Wednesday at her home in Rutland, Vt., where she had lived since 2000. She was 85. Rebecca Jones, her domestic partner and sole survivor, said the cause was aspiration pneumonia.

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