Katie Beers: Abduction, Abuse Led to Present Happiness

20 years later, victim reflects on how she "manipulated" captor to free her.

ByABC News
January 15, 2013, 2:36 PM

Feb. 8, 2013— -- intro: "My life is exactly what I always wanted: two parents who love me, siblings who are amazing, and a husband and two kids," Katie Beers said in an interview with "20/20."

That life would strike most people as normal, even a bit lucky. But the road Beers has taken to end up in that place -- chronicled in her book, "Buried Memories: Katie Beers' Story" -- had been anything but.

Watch the full story, including the interview with Beers, on "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET

Two decades ago, Beers, then 9, was abducted by John Esposito, a neighbor on Long Island, N.Y., and imprisoned by him for 17 days in an underground bunker. She said he sexually abused her during her captivity.

Speaking of the abduction, Beers said, "If it didn't happen, then I wouldn't be where I am today."

Beers had already been living a life of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her godmother's husband, Sal Inghilleri.

"I was sexually abused, physically abused, emotionally abused, verbally abused. I was [a] slave," Beers said.

Child Protective Services visited her house several times. Teachers didn't speak up, even though Beers made it to class only one or two days a week, she said.

"A lot of people kept to themselves," Beers said.

Beers said this situation prepared her to survive her abduction.

With no one else stepping in to help, she resolved to save herself by drawing on her own wits. As she watched reports about herself on a television in her bunker, Beers started playing mind games with her captor.

"I definitely think that by trying to manipulate him into thinking about the future and things like that, I think that got him a little scared and worried about what the future was going to hold," Beers told "20/20."

"When I asked [Esposito] how I would go to school, he told me that he would teach me what I needed to know. When I asked him how I would work, he would tell me that he had enough money for the two of us. When I asked him about getting married and having kids, he told me that when I was 18 he would marry me and have children with me."

After 17 days and intense round-the-clock surveillance, Esposito turned himself in. He pleaded guilty to kidnapping and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

As authorities excavated the bunker, Beers was placed in a new home with loving foster parents. Over years of therapy, she started to piece together the childhood she never had.

"The women in her life neglected her and did not protect her, and the men abused her. ... So her level of trust was very, very low," said Mary Bromley, Beers' therapist.

Life with her foster parents was "awesome," recalled Beers, who now lives in rural Pennsylvania and works in insurance sales. "They let me play. ... I didn't really have too much responsibility other than riding my bike and doing my homework."

In other words, normal -- and lucky.

Watch the full story, including the interview with Beers, on "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET

Click through to read other stories of secret chambers that went unnoticed, and the victims who had to find another way out.

quicklist:title: Jaycee Dugardtext: Jaycee Dugard, then 11, was kidnapped while walking to her Tahoe, Calif., school in June 1991 by Phillip and Nancy Garrido.

Dugard spent the next 18 years of her life in a backyard shed, the place where she was sexually abused, and the place where she gave birth to her two daughters.

Undersheriff Fred Kollar described the location in 2009 as a "hidden back yard" within a larger yard that was arranged in such a way "to isolate the victims from outside contact."

Entrance to the secret yard was guarded by a 6-foot-tall fence, tall trees and a tarp, he said.

Despite the residential area and Phillip Garrido's status as a sex offender, authorities never searched the shed. Dozens of home visits by the California Department of Corrections over the years turned out to be missed opportunities at freedom for Dugard and her daughters.

In 2009, two female police officers at the University of California, Berkeley, used their "mothers' intuition" when they noticed something was not right with Garrido, who had brought along his two daughters as he preached.

Further questioning led authorities to Jaycee, ending the 18 year nightmare.

"Now I can walk in the next room and see my mom," Dugard told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview. "Wow. I can decide to jump in the car and go to the beach with the girls. Wow, it's unbelievable, truly."

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quicklist:title: Elisabeth Fritzltext: Elisabeth Fritzl was kidnapped and confined to a secret basement below her family home, in Amstetten, Austria, where she endured sexual abuse at the hands of her father, Josef Fritzl, for 24 years.

The incestuous relationship resulted in seven children, one of which was a miscarriage.

In 1994, Fritzl expanded the multi-room lair to 600 square feet. Three of the children lived with Elisabeth Fritzl in the house of horrors, while three were allowed to move upstairs and live with their grandmother. Fritzl told his wife that they were caring for their three young grandchildren who turned up on their doorstep.

Each of the basement's eight rooms was separated by a locked door. The final room in which Elisabeth was mainly confined was accessible only through a three-foot solid steel door hidden by rows of shelves.

The ordeal ended in 2008 when one of Elisabeth's children, gravely ill, was taken to a hospital. Suspicious doctors then alerted police.

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quicklist:title: John Jamelske's House of Horrorstext: From 1988 until 2003, John Jamelske kidnapped and raped women, holding them captive in a concrete bunker below his Dewitt, N.Y., home.

Police found a steel door in his basement, which led to an 8-foot-long crawlspace, leading to another steel door.

In order to enter the torture chamber, a person would have to open the door and step down into the room using a small ladder.

The only furnishings in the bunker were a mattress, a microwave, a small tub, and a bucket for a toilet.

As Jamelske became more comfortable with his captives, he would take them out on the town. A 16-year-old girl used the opportunity to make two secret phone calls to her sister, leading to the apprehension of Jamelske.

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quicklist:title: Natascha Kampuschtext: Natascha Kampusch was kept in a carefully concealed room beneath her kidnapper's garage in Austria for nearly nine years.

"I suffered from claustrophobia and I thought I was going crazy in there," Kampusch said after her escape. "I was very distraught and very angry."

Kampusch, who was 10 years old when she was abducted by Wolfgang Priklopil, said she threw water bottles at the wall in frustration and despair in the beginning of her captivity.

On Aug. 23, 2006, Kampusch was vacuuming her captor's car when he received a cell phone call. Distracted by the noise, he walked away. Kampusch seized the opportunity and fled.

Later that afternoon, Priklopil threw himself in front of a train.

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