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Katie Beers' captor John Esposito found dead at Sing Sing

John Esposito, of Bay Shore, is led by

John Esposito, of Bay Shore, is led by court officers into his arraignment before Judge Patrick Barton at Suffolk County District Court in Islip. (Jan. 15, 1993) Credit: AP

Katie Beers says she reacted with little emotion to the news that the man who held her captive in a Bay Shore bunker 20 years ago is dead. But in her heart she's forgiven him.

John Esposito was found dead in his cell at Sing Sing prison in Ossining, N.Y., Wednesday afternoon -- hours after appearing in front of the state parole board, a prison spokesman said.

His death is under investigation, but it did not appear to be suspicious, said state Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Mailey.

A correction officer found Esposito, 64, unresponsive and "not breathing," Mailey said.

In a phone interview with Newsday Thursday, Beers, 30, said she has been steeling herself for years for one of two outcomes: her captor's release from prison, or his death behind bars.

"I have no emotion, except I can close that chapter in my life," said Beers, who is married with two children and living in Pennsylvania. "Now I don't have to worry there's a chance he's going to get out."

Beers said she forgave Esposito shortly after her rescue, but reconsidered that years later after learning that he had denied beating and sexually abusing her during the 17 days he held her captive in an underground dungeon in 1992.

"I thought, 'How can I forgive a man who can't even admit what he did to me?' " she said. "But then I remembered that forgiveness isn't about the other person; it's about you. You can forgive someone and not forget what they did. I can't believe I lost sight of that."

It wasn't until this year, Beers said, that she came to terms with how she felt about her tormentor.

Earlier this year, Beers released a memoir of her experience, "Buried Memories," which she wrote with WCBS-TV reporter Carolyn Gusoff.

Gusoff said in an email, "It was disappointing to both Katie and me that John Esposito refused repeated requests to be interviewed for our book . . . It was an opportunity for him to face up to his past actions. Sadly, he died in denial."

Beers said the parole board called her shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday to inform her of Esposito's death. She did not attend the parole hearing that morning, but said she will request a transcript.

Correction officials did not know whether the parole board had reached a decision on whether to keep Esposito in prison. Attempts to reach board members were unsuccessful.

Beers called it "an odd coincidence" that Esposito died less than 24 hours after another notorious kidnapper took his life in prison. Ariel Castro, 53, serving a life sentence for imprisoning three women in his Cleveland home for a decade, hanged himself in his cell Tuesday night.

On her Facebook page, Beers wrote: "Within 24 hours, we have lost 2 monsters -- Ariel Castro, who committed suicide; and John Esposito, who has died of unknown reasons."

At Esposito's 1994 trial, Suffolk prosecutors said Esposito sexually abused Beers repeatedly during her captivity. In a plea agreement, Esposito pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges in exchange for a 15 years-to-life sentence, but he has denied raping Beers.

Beers has said that surviving her imprisonment ultimately freed her from a childhood in which she endured neglect and sexual abuse at the hands of the adults who were supposed to protect her. "Being abducted was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me in my life," she said.

Her nationally publicized rescue on Jan. 13, 1993, she said, opened the door to a new life with a loving foster family in East Hampton -- one that allowed her to play "like any other kid."

One day, Beers told Newsday earlier this year, she will tell her young children about the horrors she endured. In the meantime, she is giving them the innocence she was denied.

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