It was one of the most bizarre cases in New York criminal history.
In December 1992, a very strange story broke on the evening news. An adorable little girl named Katie Beers had allegedly gone missing from a game arcade in Long Island. She made a phone call saying she’d been kidnapped by a man with a knife. After that, the child vanished.
I had always been a fan of true crime stories, particularly ones written by retired members of the FBI, and knew that when a child goes missing, it doesn’t bode well if they’re not found within twenty-four hours. Most of the time, abducted children are first raped, then killed. Somehow, though, when I saw this child’s face on the news, I remember how forcefully I was hit with the feeling that this child was very much alive. Still, the odds were against it, so I hoped with all my heart that she’d be recovered.
Incredibly, miraculously, seventeen days later, the police found the little girl alive. For those who are too young to remember this story, fasten your seatbelts here. She had been kept by a deranged family friend, John Esposito, in – get this – a dungeon that he had built underneath his house for the specific purpose of kidnapping her and holding her captive. It was accessible only after moving a 200-pound slab then crawling through a tunnel. Here’s a photo from the day the authorities removed the creepy thing from the ground:
The sight of that bunker/dungeon’s retrieval has never left me.
I was very interested when I heard that Katie Beers, along with Long Island reporter Carolyn Gusoff, who had covered the story for TV news when it had occurred, were working on a book about the kidnapping. I have to say, the resulting book, Buried Memories, is one of the best page-turners I’ve read in years. It’s particularly interesting to have the two contrasting voices, of Katie and Carolyn, narrating each chapter. While Katie was underground, Carolyn was all over Long Island, visiting the girl’s mother, who wasn’t raising her, her godparents, with whom she had lived until it came to light that the godfather, Sal Inghilleri, had been sexually abusing her, others who knew her and had a lot to say about the way she had been visibly neglected, the police in charge of the case, and Esposito, who had lawyered up. He claimed to be the last man to see Katie before she was “taken” by the man with the knife. That turned out to be a fabrication of Esposito’s own. He forced Katie to make a tape saying that had happened when it hadn’t. Then the creep went to a phone booth, called Katie’s godmother, and played the tape.
What I enjoyed the most about reading this book was finding out about Katie’s amazing savvy in dealing with one of the ghastliest criminals who had ever managed to fly beneath the radar and live loose among the populace. Katie did not cooperate with her kidnapper in the least bit. She was dragged into the hole beneath the maniac’s house kicking and screaming – literally. She demanded to be sent home. She would not tell the pervert the things he longed to hear when he tried to lead her, outrageously, to say she wanted to stay with him. She didn’t, and she let him know it. The few times the child did agree with the Esposito creep, it was only to tell him what she thought he wanted to hear in order to press her own advantage in an attempt to have him let her out.