Twenty years after she was kidnapped, forced into an damp, dark underground hole – 2 feet wide, 7 feet long and 3 feet high – and often held in chains, Katie Beers is speaking out at last about the hellish circumstances she survived.
“I felt it was time for me to tell my story,” says the 30-year-old Beers, whose new memoir, Buried Memories, is being published by TitleTown Books and excerpted in the upcoming issue of PEOPLE.
Beers’s case made headlines in in 1993 when her abductor, building contractor John Esposito, confessed and led police to the crude underground bunker, hidden by a 200-lb. concrete wall, he’d dug underneath his Long Island home – a genuine hell hole one FBI agent at the time described as something out of Silence of the Lambs.
While incarcerated for 16 days, Beers, only 10, forced herself to stay awake and tried to convince her captor to set her free. Police attributed her ability to survive to the toughness she’d developed surviving a deplorable childhood of utter neglect.
“She learned at an early age to shut out the hurt,” says her co-writer on the book, WCBS newscaster Carolyn Gusoff.
Beers’s mother, Marilyn Beers, who worked multiple jobs including cab driver, often left Katie with her godmother and her husband, Linda and Sal Inghilleri, who kept the child from school and treated her as their servant in their squalid hovel of a home.
Before long, Sal began to sexually abuse and rape Katie. The abuse lasted for years. Her childhood was so traumatic that she now says: “Being abducted was, unfortunately, the best thing that happened to me, because it got me out of the abusive situation.”
After her release, Beers was taken in by an East Hampton, N.Y., foster family who shielded her from coverage of her case and provided her with a stable childhood. (Esposito, sentenced to 15 years, is still serving in Sing Sing; Inghilleri served 12 years and died in jail in 2009.)
“I owe them my life,” Beers says of her foster parents.
Now living in rural Pennsylvania, married and the mother of two toddlers, Beers realizes she will never have “full closure” on what happened to her, but she hopes her story will help others who’ve suffered abuse.
“You never fully recover,” she says, “It’s with me every day, but it’s something I’ve learned to cope with.”