The kidnapped Long Island girl who endured 17 days of captivity in an underground dungeon 20 years ago tells NBC 4 New York in her first public comments about her ordeal that she felt like she was "living in a coffin" during those two weeks.
Now 30, Katie Beers met reporters at Hofstra University's Axinn library as she released a new book, "Buried Memories," that focused on a childhood of neglect and sex abuse culminating with her kidnapping and imprisonment by a family friend, John Esposito, in December 1992.
According to Beers, Esposito lured her to his Bay Shore home with the promise of presents and held her in a "coffin-like" box buried beneath his house for more than two weeks, during which time she was raped repeatedly. Beers was kept chained during her captivity, with the only light inside coming from a small television that provided her with constant news updates on the police search.
"It was hell," Beers said.
Beers marked her 10th birthday in captivity and her cries of desperation that day were captured on a voice-activated tape recorder Esposito had left just outside her dungeon, according to Dominick Varrone, the now-retired Suffolk county police investigator who led the search for Beers.
"Even with the sound-proofing in that room, you could hear her cries," Varrone said. "I have never let Katie listen to those tapes."
Esposito admitted to the kidnapping in early 1993. He remains in prison, serving a term that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.
"I have forgiven John for what he did," Beers said Tuesday. "Without all the events in my life, I wouldn't be the person I am today."
Beers was also raped by her godmother's husband, Sal Inghilleri. She testified against him at trial and he, too, went to prison. Inghilleri died in jail in 2009.
Beers spent much of her life with Inghilleri and his wife. She wrote her godmother treated her like "her slave."
After she was freed, Beers began a new life with an unidentified foster family on Long Island's East End. She enjoyed what she called a "normal, sheltered" life that included constant therapy.
"Women betrayed her and the men in her life raped her," said therapist Mary Bromley. "I had to undo that."
Now married and a mother of two toddlers, Beers lives in Pennsylvania. Her book carries a message of recovery and redemption.
"Now matter what happened to you as a child, you can overcome it, you can recover," Beers said. "It doesn't have to define who you are."