How “Girl in the Wall” Katie Beers Refuses to Let Her Trauma Define Her

Katie Beers had a hard childhood. When she was little, her mother abandoned her. Her godmother took her in, but only so the girl could do all the chores, cook the meals, and act as a servant. Meanwhile, her uncle started abusing her when she was two, making her life a living hell. Little did she know things would get even worse.

How a 9-Year-Old Was Kidnapped by a Family Friend

man's dark silhouette in a room window
Photo by Isai Ramos on Unsplash

Katie was never allowed to go to school. Instead, she stayed with her godmother and uncle, and the lonely girl’s only friend was a man named John Esposito. He was a family friend, and she looked forward to their visits. So when she was nine years old, and he announced he was taking her to an amusement park, she didn’t think it was suspicious. She was excited to go to her favorite place.

However, the pair never made it to the park. Instead, Esposito kidnapped Katie and took her to his house. There, he put her into an elaborate dungeon in a tunnel system behind the wall — the same place Katie played at as it was being built. She had no idea it was being built for her.

For 17 days, the man kept her there and sexually assaulted her as police searched high and low. At first, they suspected the family, but eventually, their gaze turned to Esposito, who wasn’t the stand-up community man he had claimed to be.

How One Little Girl’s Questions Saved Her Own Life

girl standing in a rocky cave
Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

Down in the dungeon, Katie was allowed to have the TV on 24/7 so she was aware of the updates in her investigation. She began playing mind games with Esposito, asking him what the future looked like and what his ultimate plan was. At one point, he wanted her to play dead so that he could take a picture of her, and the police would stop looking, but she refused.

“From that point on, I rarely slept, and I also did not eat any of the food that he could have altered,” she told. “I was fearful that he might put something in the food, a sedative, a sleeping pill, something.” Katie knew if he snapped that photo, it would seal her fate.

The best part of my story is knowing that you can recover, and you can persevere, and your life is 100 per what you make it to be.

Katie Beers

“I was disgusted. I was 10 years old. I was trying to get him to think about the long-term of him kidnapping me,” she continued. “I told him that I was sick and I wasn’t feeling well. Between the police department laying on him at his house all the time and my questions and me saying that I wasn’t feeling well finally wore him down.”

Esposito went to his lawyer and revealed he knew where Katie was. When police arrived at the house, the man began unlocking all of the components of the dungeon, proving he had been plotting this kidnapping for a long time.

They expected to find a body, but miraculously, Katie was alive. Not only that, but investigators recalled a bubbly girl who understood the worst was behind her.

“We were amazed to see a nine-year-old look like she had just come back from a trip to the movies,” Suffolk County Police Lt. Dominic Verrone said. “She was sitting on the sofa, bubbly, upbeat, and we just knew from that moment on that she was going to be a survivor.”

How a Little Girl Proved the Importance of Finding the Light

a small plant growing through the cement
Photo by Engin Akyurt

Although it took Katie time to heal from her trauma, her life took a much more positive turn. After she was found, the details of her home life came out, and investigators put her into foster care. There, for the first time in her life, she had loving parents and siblings to play with.

“My life is exactly what I had always wanted,” she added. “I have two parents who love me, and a husband and two kids and a wonderful family. I think the best part of my story is knowing that you can recover, and you can persevere, and your life is 100 per what you make it to be.”

Today, Katie is a motivational speaker who helps others see hope in their future — no matter how hard or unfair life can be.

I was determined to not let my childhood traumas come into my adulthood. They’ve shaped me to who I am but they don’t define me.

Katie Beers

Katie’s story is motivating for many reasons. As a little girl, every adult in her life failed her, yet she still managed to find the good and light in her circumstances. Eventually, authorities assisted her in getting the help she needed, and she has found an inspirational way to carry on ever since.

It helps us keep things in perspective the next time we have a bad day, feel like nothing is lining up the way we need it to, or just go to that dark place. As Katie proved, talking about it and working out past trauma can lead to lightness — but it’s also essential to do the work.  


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Healing begins when you refuse to let your trauma define you.

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