Charles E. Skoller,
Twisted Confessions: The True Story
Behind the Kitty Genovese & Barbara Kralik Murder Trials

(Bridgeway, 2008)

Twisted Confessions is a shocking book if you are not familiar with the story of Kitty Genovese. On March 13, 1964 in Queens, New York, Kitty was brutally assaulted and murdered as her neighbors watched, then turned their backs or went to bed. From her first scream until her attacker left her bleeding to death in her apartment entryway, 45 minutes had elapsed, yet not one of her neighbors called the police or offered to help. She died in the ambulance en route to the hospital.

Detectives learned that 38 neighbors admitted hearing Kitty's screams and most of that number had witnessed part of the initial attack. The police suspected that many more persons had heard the screams but preferred to deny it. No one called the police.

Six neighbors saw the attacker and police got a solid description of him. It did not take long for them to arrest Winston Moseley, who readily confessed to killing Kitty, Annie Mae Johnson and Barbara Kralik.

The problem was the police had already arrested Alvin Mitchell for murdering Barbara Kralik and he had confessed. When Moseley confessed to the murder, Mitchell withdrew his confession and stated that police had harassed and abused him into signing the confession.

The author, Charles Skoller, was the young prosecutor assigned to the cases. This is Skoller's story of those trials and the events leading up to them, utilizing his own recollections, court transcripts, newspaper articles, interviews with the people involved and other research to compile this 228-page account of the year-long ordeal.

Skoller's writing style wavers between lively and technical. At times he draws the picture for you, but at other times he simply states what happened and moves on. It is difficult to classify his writing style or rate his quality, but the story is fascinating enough to keep you reading even when the writing is dry. And when it is dry, it's really dry; Skoller himself says a large part of the spectator crowd did not come back to court because the trial was boring.

You will keep pushing through as you anticipate how Skoller will trip up the killers and get the truth to come out in the courtroom. But be warned, this is not a spectacular courtroom drama from which great books are created nor is it an intense, edge-of-your-seat investigation to catch a killer.

The sensational story in Twisted Confessions is the apathy of the neighborhood while a young woman was screaming for help. That really is the story to be told and analyzed here.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

26 July 2008

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