It was a sensationalized story that captivated the nation and it happened in our backyard.
Katie Beers was 10-year-old in late 1992 when a family acquaintance abducted her from his Bay Shore, New York home. For more than two weeks, Beers was chained in nothing more than a coffin size box.
Those who recall the story, recall the outrage attached to it.
Now WCBS/Channel 2 Long Island reporter Carolyn Gusoff has co-authored a book with Beers, describing in detail the ugly ordeal that the young girl endured.
Gusoff, first floated the idea in 2008, but on a much smaller scale. At the time, Sal Inghilleri, convicted in 1994 for sexually abusing Beers, was back in court. It triggered Gusoff to think of Beers finally telling about her ordeal.
“So I tracked her down, which was no easy task,” Gusoff tells FishbowlNY. “She had been shrouded in secrecy and anonymity for years.”
But the plucky reporter used her sources to eventually find Beers’ foster parents. They shot down any exclusive interview for local news (Gusoff was at WNBC then). Rather than submit her story for a two-minute TV story, Beers was determined to have it told in book form.
“I volunteered. It was a story that was close to my heart that I covered 20 years ago,” Gusoff says. “I just felt, ‘Who knows this case better than I do?’”
Early on, though, Gusoff maintained respect for Beers and her unimaginable tale.
“It was a very big responsibility, and I promised her right away that we would tell her story with dignity,” Gusoff says.
Gusoff and Beers built a strong bond in the four years since they began the collaboration on Buried Memories: Katie Beers’ Story, available by Title Town Publishing.
“We’re very good friends now. We’re like soul sisters,” Gusoff admits.
Beers indirectly knew Gusoff’s work years earlier. While trapped, one of the few modes of normalcy for Beers was having a TV. She saw many news reports about her own kidnapping, including ones by neophyte reporter Gusoff on News 12 Long Island.
“She doesn’t specifically remember my name, but she has memories of watching News 12, and the constant coverage,” Gusoff says. ”I was familiar to her because of that.”
For Gusoff, this marks her first foray into authoring. Given the subject matter and the kinship she shares with Beers, it was important to do justice to this story.
“It wasn’t easy at all. I’m used to telling things very quickly and cutting to the chase,” Gusoff says. “And writing a book is exactly the opposite.”
The veteran reporter, who also worked at WNYW, took a book writing course to help with the transition.
“I learned to find a voice and struggled with it a little bit because the book is written in two different voices,” Gusoff explains. “In my voice, there’s a narrative as the reporter, and there’s a narrative in Katie’s voice. I had to find a structure… It was a long, arduous process.”
Now that the process is complete, whether she’ll write another book is still uncertain.
“I love my work as a television news reporter…[but] if the right story came to me again I certainly would be interested in writing some more,” Gusoff says.
Gusoff, featured regularly on WLNY’s News at 9, will not forget the partnership with Beers.
“[Beers] describes the book writing process as part of the recovery,” Gusoff says. “But as a journalist it’s been a wonderful experience to be able to see the ending of the story that I had covered so many years ago, and for it to be a happy ending is extremely gratifying.”