Katherine (Katie) Beers was born on December 30, 1982, in New York. She was the daughter of Marilyn Beers, and her father was unknown, as her own mother claimed that Katie was the result of a casual relationship.
While still very young, Katie lived with her mother and older half-brother, John Beers, in Long Island, New York. Marilyn was neglectful of the children; they often ended up under the care of the godmother and her husband, Salvatore Inghilleri.
The early abuses
The family environment for Katie was tumultuous; the Inghilleris treated her more like a servant than a close person. The girl, under six years old, was sexually abused by Salvatore and forced to clean the house, wash dishes, do laundry, and perform any household tasks they assigned to her.
When Katie turned seven years old, she was fed up with her situation and decided to tell her godmother about the sexual abuse she was suffering. Instead of being embraced and protected, Katie was called a liar and expelled from the house.
Marilyn, her mother, upon learning about the abuses, decided to report to the police. The community heard rumors about the case, which ended up attracting the attention of another sexual predator, John Esposito.
Gifts and Attention
John Esposito started to have more contact with Katie’s family. He realized that she and her brother were neglected and lacked attention and supervision from their mother, which seemed like a golden opportunity to him.
First, he approached his older brother, John Beers, who years later admitted to having been sexually abused by Esposito. The boy recounts that he only stopped being abused when the criminal himself said he was no longer useful, as he was becoming a too old boy.
Not content with that, he started lurking around Katie, bringing her gifts, games, and sweets. Esposito was skilled at playing the role of a good man, being friendly and exemplary in the local community. He referred to himself as a “mentor” to young people facing difficult situations in their lives.
Katie frequently missed classes, attending only once or twice a week. Child protective services visited her home, but unfortunately, it seemed like the dirt was just being swept under the rug.
After being rejected by her godmother and returning to live with her mother, Katie saw John Esposito as a friend and began to spend more time with him.
On December 28, 1992, two days before her tenth birthday, Esposito invited Katie to play arcade games. Instead, he took her to his house, claiming that there were birthday presents specially bought for her there.
Upon arriving at the location, John allowed her to play video games for a few minutes. On this date, John Esposito was 43 years old and worked as a contractor. Thanks to his profession, he had built an apartment at the back of his family’s house and above the garage.
Katie was having fun, but John had a wicked plan. It wasn’t long before he forced the girl into an underground concrete bunker after having his sexual advances denied by the child.
The location featured a tunnel about 2 meters long, connecting a heavy trapdoor weighing 90kg to a sort of 4m² dungeon. Everything was concealed behind a bookshelf.
The cubicle contained a toilet, a bed, and a surveillance camera system. The entire place was constructed to isolate any noise. Esposito later told the police that he had built the bunker specifically for Katie.
The girl herself remembers playing in the dirt removed from the site years earlier while Esposito was still building it.
Kept in Captivity
After forcing Katie Beers into the bunker, Esposito had her record a message where she claimed that a man with a knife had taken her. He played the message on a public payphone outside the arcade during a phone call with the girl’s godmother.
Shortly after, in tears, he told the establishment’s staff that he had lost the girl inside. The police were called.
During the days she spent in captivity, Katie was frequently abused while being gifted toys and fast food. He would say that his idea was to keep her in the bunker for the rest of her life and planned to take a photo of her sleeping and send it to the police to make them believe she was dead, even though the photo was never taken.
Dominick Varrone was the detective in charge of this case. From the beginning, he seemed to find everything very strange, especially because Katie used the expression “he kidnapped me” during the phone call.
His police experience confirmed that it was highly unlikely for a nine-year-old child to use such a term, opting for phrases like “he grabbed me” or “he took me”.
Katie Beers had a small circle of friends, spending more time with adults than children her age. It didn’t take long for the police to discover that Esposito had entered the arcade alone on the day of the crime.
His police record was not a pleasant one, bringing to light an attempted kidnapping of a five-year-old child and also the revelations of sexual abuse made by Katie’s older half-brother.
The police also determined that Katie’s phone message about a man with a knife was a prerecorded message, based on the lack of background noise.
John Esposito confesses
On the very first day of captivity, Katie desperately sought a way to escape. In a moment of the man’s distraction, she managed to hide a bunch of keys.
After several attempts, she figured out the correct key and unlocked the door of the bunker, but as she was in the tunnel heading towards the trapdoor, Esposito noticed her movement.
Following this episode, Katie was sexually assaulted for the first time during the seventeen days she was imprisoned, as well as suffering physical violence and death threats if she tried again.
On January 13, 1993, after intense police pressure, Esposito confessed to having kept Katie Beers in captivity and led the police to the bunker. Detective Dominick Varrone had always suspected Esposito, but he could never have imagined such an architecture built specifically for the crime.
Convictions and Justice
John Esposito was sentenced on July 27, 1994 to life imprisonment, and he served his sentence in Westchester County, New York.
Esposito was found dead in his cell from seemingly natural causes on September 4, 2013, shortly after his fourth parole hearing in 20 years.
Salvatore Inghilleri was convicted of two counts of sexual abuse and served 12 years for molesting Katie Beers. During the kidnapping investigation, authorities discovered that Salvatore had sexually abused the girl before she was abducted. He died in prison in 2009.
Katie Beers was sent to live with adoptive parents in East Hampton, New York. She maintained her anonymity and was raised by her adoptive parents until adulthood. In January 2013, she decided to share her story with the public. Help Me chronicles the series of trials she had to endure to survive.