Katie Beers, who grew up in Springs after a 16-day kidnapping ordeal that began just before she turned 10 in 1993, reacted this week to the death in his cell at upstate Sing Sing prison of John Esposito, the Long Island building contractor convicted of holding her prisoner.
He was discovered shortly after a parole hearing, and died of natural causes, according to the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. He was serving 15 years to life for imprisoning Ms. Beers inside a soundproof dungeon under his Bay Shore house.
A friend of the family, he was a key suspect in the investigation into the whereabouts of Ms. Beers and finally confessed and led police to her.
Neglected by her biological mother, the young girl was also sexually abused by the husband of a woman who cared for her, Sal Inghilleri.
After placement with a foster family in Springs, she was counseled by Mary Bromley, an East Hampton psychotherapist, and testified at Mr. Inghilleri’s trial, with a teddy bear in hand. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, where he also died after being returned to jail for a parole violation in 2010.
“It’s time to close another chapter in my life,” Ms. Beers tweeted on Sept. 4, using a hashtag of Courage Always.
“I received a phone call today shortly after 5 p.m. from the N.Y.S. Parole Board,” she wrote. “Today was the day that John Esposito had his parole hearing. The [parole] board let me know that at about 3:30 p.m. today, after his hearing, John was found unresponsive in his jail cell and pronounced dead.”
“Within 24 hours, we have lost two monsters — Ariel Castro, who committed suicide, and John Esposito, who has died of unknown reasons,” she wrote, referring to the Ohio man in jail for holding three women captive in his house for more than a decade.
“One more monster is gone!” she wrote about Mr. Castro in another tweet, expressing hope that the news would give the young women held captive by him “some peace of mind, and [aid] in their recovery.”
“Definitely, John’s death was the close of another chapter,” Ms. Beers said in a telephone interview yesterday. And, she said, “finding out that he died of natural causes — that puts me a little more at ease, knowing that he didn’t take the cowardly way out.”
With the suicide in jail of Mr. Castro just hours earlier, and Mr. Esposito’s scheduled parole hearing the same date of his death, there was much speculation about its cause.
Ms. Beers said that she knew Mr. Esposito would be up for parole this month or next, but was not aware of the scheduled hearing and had not planned to speak. “I never, honestly, thought that he would be released,” she said. Mr. Esposito was jailed solely on abduction charges, maintaining that he had not assaulted her.
It wasn’t until 2007, before a parole board considering Mr. Esposito’s release, that Ms. Beers told the details of her rape and sexual assault. Before that, she said, “I wasn’t ready.” With that testimony, she said, “I feel like I closed his cell once and for all. Nothing — not 20 years of good behavior — could erase what he did to me 20 years ago.”
Nonetheless, she said, “From an early age, I’ve been preparing myself mentally for either him being released on parole, or him dying.”
Though his death closes a door, Ms. Beers, now a wife and mother in Pennsylvania with a full-time job in the insurance industry and an inspirational-speaking career — said it has not had a profound impact on her life. “Because the man has basically been dead to me since the day he kidnapped me and sexually assaulted me,” she said yesterday.
“I’m saddened for his family; they lost a loved one,” she added, noting that a person’s death has an impact “regardless of how much of a monster they’ve been.”
“Katie’s public response was sensational,” Ms. Bromley said this week, pointing out her ability to empathize with his family. She said she had received a call from Ms. Beers right after she had heard from the parole board, and was expecting to hear that Mr. Esposito had been given parole. “That same night, I must have called Katie three times,” Ms. Bromley said. “We just needed to keep talking. I almost could not believe it.”
Ms. Bromley said she also spoke about the news with Bill Ferris, the assistant district attorney on the Beers case, Anna Audion, the district attorney’s victim advocate, with detectives who were involved, and with East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker, who was among the East Hampton police and community members who rallied around Ms. Beers when she came here to live.
“As you can imagine . . . for everyone involved in this case, it has been a very emotional and intense time,” Ms. Bromley said this week.
Early this year, at the 20th anniversary of her abduction, Ms. Beers released a book, “Buried Memories: Katie Beers’ Story,” co-written with Carolyn Gusoff.
She is now booking dates, through her Web site at KatieBeers.com, for appearances and upbeat speeches about recovery from childhood traumas, and said yesterday that she had let it be known to Ariel Castro’s victims that she is available to speak to them. “I’m here for them, if any of them want to reach out to me,” she said.