Two abduction survivors, Katie Beers and Sarah Maynard, share their stories in exclusive interviews with Dr. Phil. How did they survive their horrifying ordeals?


Twenty years ago, 10-year-old Katie Beers vanished, and a nationwide manhunt ensued. Sixteen days later, John Esposito, a friend of Katie’s family, turned himself in and led authorities to his underground bunker, where Katie was being held captive. Since her rescue, Katie has never spoken publicly about her ordeal, in an attempt to live a “normal” life. Now, she opens up about her kidnapping in her book, Buried Memories, and shares her horrific experience in an exclusive with Dr. Phil.

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Katie recounts her ordeal. “I was 9 years old, and I had a funny feeling.” 

Katie opens up about her childhood and the life she had waiting for her.   

Go inside the underground dungeon. And, Katie meets one of her rescuers.

Twenty years have passed. Dr. Phil asks Katie, why speak out about her traumatic event now? Katie says she’s reached a time in her life when she feels ready to talk about her story and wants others to know that it's possible to recover from such a trauma.

John Esposito had a criminal history. In 1978, he attempted to take a little boy out of a shopping mall and was caught. Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, one of the first to see Katie alive in the underground bunker, says the police assigned to Katie’s case kept the pressure on Esposito because they believed he knew something. After leading authorities to Katie, Esposito was found guilty of kidnapping in the first degree and was sentenced to 15 years to life. He’s up for parole again in September 2013.

Dr. Phil and Clint agree that Katie may have contributed to breaking down the will of her captor, causing him to give himself up. She says she would ask Esposito a series of questions every day, to make him think of her future: What will happen when she turns 18? What if she wants to have a job, to get married and to have kids? “His responses were, I didn’t have to work, I’d have kids with him, I’d marry him,” she recalls. Katie says she hoped to make him realize that what he was doing wrong and that she didn’t want to be with him. Dr. Phil says her tactic to make her captor think of the future was a smart strategy.

Dr. Phil explains that parents need to prepare their children for the real world, which includes the fact that there are predators out there. In his book, Life Code, he explains the character traits that everyone needs to look out for. Learn more about Dr. Phil's Life Code here.

Katie’s book, Buried Memories: Katie Beers' Story, co-authored by Carolyn Gusoff, shares the details of her captivity and recovery from trauma.

When Esposito was contacted for an interview for the book, he sent a statement that read in part: “You don’t understand how it is in prison. Every time something happens about my case, I get punished in here. Inmates say bad things to me, and I must endure it. I believe I’ve been punished enough. The only thing I wish for is to die in freedom. If you write this book, I will be punished again and again.”

Katie says she believes Esposito deserves to die in prison.

Walking into a Nightmare

Two years ago, 13-year-old Sarah Maynard and her 11-year-old brother, Kody, walked into their home and into the middle of a nightmare: Their mother, Tina Maynard, and a family friend, Stephanie Sprang, had been murdered, and a man with a knife grabbed Sarah and tied her up, and then brutally killed her brother. Sarah was sexually assaulted and held captive on a bed of leaves for four days until authorities found her. In a daytime exclusive, Sarah, now 15, shares her story with Dr. Phil and discusses her book, The Girl in the Leaves. How did she survive her horrifying ordeal? 

“When I started to take my shoes off, I looked down and saw blood.”

Sarah’s father, Larry, explains what he saw at the scene of the crime and what he learned happened to his son. 

Sarah and her father, Larry, join Dr. Phil. They purposefully did not watch their videotaped story to avoid seeing images of the crime.
Sarah explains that although it’s been two years, it’s hard adjusting to her loss, which is why she tries not to think about it. “I’ve got to be strong and just live through it,” she says.

“It’s the greatest loss of all,” Larry says. “As far as your heart being completely broken, I mean, it’s like the worst that you could ever imagine.”

Larry says authorities believe Matthew Hoffman targeted his family because he was fascinated with Sarah. Hoffman was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Dr. Phil asks Sarah about her grieving process. “Have you cried about this? Has this been painful emotionally? What’s been your reaction?”
“It’s been painful inside, but I haven’t really shown any emotion,” Sarah says, with tears in her eyes. “I don’t really cry that much.”

Dr. Phil notes that Sarah seems to be suppressing her emotions and asks her if she’s had counseling. She explains that she did see a therapist, and it was helpful, but she doesn’t anymore.

Larry says his daughter stays busy with academics and sports and keeps her mind occupied but says that both of them struggle to sleep peacefully. Larry says he sleeps on a recliner with a loaded gun, in view of both doors in their home. Sarah has the protection of a dog that was part of the canine team searching for her mother and brother. She's still enduring nightmares.

Dr. Phil tells them that writing their book was probably helpful, but they need to be careful not to get caught up in the details of what happened.

Dr. Frank Lawlis, chairman of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board and an authority on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder says Sarah appears to still be in the grieving process and says there are specific techniques that can give her some relief, if she’s interested, in addition to counseling.
Dr. Phil tells Sarah that it’s important to take care of herself and that it’s not weak to feel. He offers her resources to help her through her grief and possible PTSD. 

Larry and Sarah have a gift for Dr. Phil. And, see the surprise Dr. Phil has for Sarah.