BAY SHORE, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK – UNITED STATES.
Katie Beers’ life was one of constant struggle from the moment she was born. Surrounded by abject poverty, a dysfunctional family, and sexual predators, Katie became streetwise at a very young age, running errands for her family at all hours of the night through the streets of New York. While the adults around her ignored her needs, John Esposito was making plans for the nine-year-old.
Lead up to Crime
In 1977, John Esposito attempted to abduct a seven-year-old boy from a shopping mall. He was caught and pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated harassment and placed on probation. Though he would lay low for many years, what desires drove him would eventually resurface in much more sinister ways. Rejected from joining mentoring programs for children of single-parent homes in 1980, Esposito used supermarket bulletin boards in an attempt to secure his prey.
Long before Katie Beers was abducted and held captive, she was already a child in a dangerous and perilous situation. She was a girl neglected and let down by the adults in her life. She had a long history with Social Services and was known in the neighbourhood as “the cockroach kid.” She was also known in the area of West Islip, Long Island, as a girl who lacked parental guidance, roaming the streets, running errands for family members, and barefoot and poorly dressed in the dead of winter. She lived with her single mother and other adults who formed a makeshift family, residing in a dilapidated house that from the outside resembled a car-wrecking yard, in a neighbourhood struck with chronic poverty.
Marilyn Beers, 43, was never sure who Katie’s father was, having fallen pregnant during a night of bar hopping, she gave up her child to Linda Inghilleri, 39, who became Katie’s godmother and surrogate parent. Linda was married to Salvatore (Sal) Inghilleri, 39, who was physically and sexually abusing Katie. He also killed her cat by throwing it against a wall.
The nine-year-old missed a lot of school, instead she stayed home to complete chores, go shopping for cigarettes, and wash clothes at the laundromat.
John Esposito was a friend of the Beers family, and Marilyn trusted him with Katie, believing he was gay. In 1991 Marilyn Beers reported Esposito to police for molesting her 16-year-old son, John Beers, known as “Little John,” with the abuse beginning when he was seven. Esposito “Big John” would lavish Little John with gifts, and invited him and his friends to his house that was stocked with videogames and toys.
When sitting in Esposito’s truck, Little John was told, “I’m looking for another kid. You’re getting too old.” That’s when Big Johns attention turned towards John Beers’ sister Katie.
On December 28, 1992, Katie disappeared from the Spaceplex indoor amusement park on Long Island. She was visiting with Esposito, now a 43-year-old contractor, who was treating her to a day out for her tenth birthday, which was two days away.
“I’ve been kidnapped by a man with a knife,” Katie’s terrified voice screamed on her godmother’s answering machine. “Oh my God. He’s coming back.”
Hundreds of police searched across Long Island, but there was one place they were focusing on specifically.
John Esposito lived at 1416 Saxon Avenue, Bay Shore, New York. At the property he had constructed a playground, basketball court, swimming pool, and deck. But, 18-months earlier, beneath the converted garage, which he used as an office, he had constructed an underground dungeon. Katie would play in the mound of dirt as Esposito excavated the site.
To enter the bunker, a bookshelf had to be moved, the floor coverings lifted, and a 90 kilogram (200 pound) concrete slab had to be hoisted by an electric wrench, to reveal a vertical shaft that dropped three metres (10 feet) to a soundproof chamber. Preparing for a lengthy stay, Esposito fitted the dungeon with a porcelain toilet lined with black plastic, dehumidifiers, heating, ventilation, television monitors, and a separate containment cell for his captive to sleep in.
Chained around the neck, Katie was held captive for 16 days in the small bunk-box, with only the television to keep her company and to light the darkness. She noticed what looked like blood on the sheets and wondered if others had been held there before her.
Esposito visited her daily to bring fast food and sexually abuse her. One night they watched and episode of America’s Most Wanted together, where Katie’s abduction was featured. Her captor left a voice-activated tape-recorder in the enclosure so he could listen back as she called for help. One recording contained Katie singing “Happy Birthday” to herself on the day she turned ten.
Esposito appeared on television news reports, distraught and pleading for Katie’s safe return, but police were already focusing their attention on Esposito, tracking him 24-hours a day, following him through supermarkets and pressuring his family.