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From the Archives: Katie Tried to Call 911, But Captor Cut Her Off

Kidnap suspect John Esposito leaves the 4th Precinct

Kidnap suspect John Esposito leaves the 4th Precinct in Hauppauge on the way to his arraignment in Central Islip for the kidnapping of 10 year-old Katie Beers. (Jan. 14, 1993) Credit: Newsday / Don Jacobsen

This article was originally published Jan. 20, 1993

Moments after John Esposito told Katie Beers he was going to kidnap her, the terrified 10-year-old made a desperate attempt to call for help and picked up a phone in his Bay Shore home and dialed 911. But Esposito grabbed the phone out of her hand and slammed it down, law enforcement sources told Newsday.

This was one of two attempts on Katie's part to reach out to the outside world during her 16 days in captivity. Later that day, she secretly tape-recorded a message telling her godmother she was locked in a bunker beneath Esposito's home. But Esposito discovered her message and erased it.

Newsday learned of Katie's attempts to free herself from Esposito's bunker from a law enforcement source. The revelations came on a day when Esposito was brought before a District Court judge and told he had been indicted, and Katie began her first day of school at her foster family's home in Suffolk County.

Yesterday, in his first court appearance since last Thursday, a gaunt and unshaven John Esposito appeared in First District Court and was told he had been indicted on charges relating to the kidnaping.

During a brief court appearance in Central Islip, Esposito stood silently as Assistant District Attorney Richard Frankel told the court that a Suffolk County grand jury had voted to indict him. Frankel declined to detail the charges in the indict-ment, which will be handed up today. Law enforcement sources said the grand jury had been asked to consider first-degree kidnaping as well as sexual-abuse charges involving Katie's captivity.

At his arraignment last Thursday, Esposito was charged with second-degree kidnaping, a lesser offense carrying a maximum penalty of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. First-degree kidnaping carries a penalty of 25 years to life. Last evening, Esposito's lawyer, Andrew Siben, said the indictment would be handed up at 2 p.m. today before Suffolk County Court Judge Joel Lefkowitz, when it will be made public.

District Attorney James Catterson Jr. would not comment about the indictment.

Katie is in a foster home in Suffolk County; sources said her foster father is a county employee who has been a foster father to four other children in the past. She is beginning to fit in with the family, who have four children. Yesterday, she went to school for the first time since October.

Yesterday, Suffolk County police searched in the area of the Nesconset arcade where Katie was reported missing on Dec. 28, and removed the rest of the underground concrete bunker.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press quoted portions of a transcript of Katie's statement to police. "Last night, I told John that I was sick and I had to see a doctor. He said, 'You're going to have to wait,' and he left," Katie said when she was interviewed by a police officer Wednesday night. She said that after she and Esposito played a video game, "he started kissing me. . . . He started unrolling the rugs and then I was in like a cave. I was in a tunnel," she said. "He came down once a day with food. I asked him to come down twice a day. But he said no, because 'The police are on my case.' "

Court papers examined by Newsday reveal further details of how police focused on Esposito almost from the moment he reported her missing. Later, police searched his house, looking for signs that Katie had been murdered, according to the papers.

According to the papers, Esposito became a suspect because he could not account for all his time on Dec. 28; because Katie's purse was found on a shelf in his barn-like house at 1416 Saxon Ave. That was suspicious because although Esposito said he had taken Katie to Spaceplex, investigators didn't think she had ever been there that day, in part because they thought she would have taken her purse. Also, sources said they were suspicious of Esposito because of scratch marks on his right hand and chin. After the pocketbook was found, according to court papers, Esposito became anxious and tried to get police out of the house.

Also, police have said they were suspicious that a message left on the answering machine of Katie's godmother, Linda Inghilleri, had been recorded earlier. On the recording, Katie is heard screaming that she had been kidnaped by a man with a knife. According to the sources, police discovered through phone records that 18 calls from the pay phone were made over a 36-minute period to Inghilleri's phone while her line was busy. Because no one in the area of the pay phone reported a young girl making calls, investigators concluded Katie had not called, but that someone had played a recording of her voice into the phone, according to sources.

The case broke a week ago today when Esposito informed his lawyers that he had kidnaped Katie, and led police to the underground chamber beneath his home. His other lawyer, Sidney Siben, has said his client had thought about killing himself the night before he turned himself in.

Ellen Yan and Sidney C. Schaer contributed to this report.

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