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Katie Beers Finally Gets to be a Child

January 30, 1993 GMT

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) _ Free after more than two weeks held captive in an underground bunker, 10- year-old Katie Beers is enjoying her new life as a child.

Living with a foster parents, the girl whose kidnapping gained national attention has enjoyed new school friends, classmates’ birthday parties and dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

″She is having a ball,″ said a friend of the foster family, who agreed to speak about Katie on condition of anonymity.

Katie even has a new look after having her hair permed. She was less enthusiastic about having her teeth checked.

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″She balked at going to the dentist,″ the source said.

And for good reason. The dentist found a couple of infected teeth that must be pulled out soon.

Katie, reported missing in late December, was found Jan. 13 in the bizarre subterranean prison where she allegedly was chained by the neck and sexually abused by a man described as a family friend.

But even before that ordeal, she allegedly endured years of neglect, ill- fed, ignored and overworked by adults who were supposed to protect her.

Now, she has gained weight, giggles a lot, and chatters up a storm with her new family members and fourth-grade pals.

But her changed lifestyle also has meant some adjustments. She had been able to come and go as she pleased since she was old enough to walk out the front door. Now there are rules - a set bedtime, daily baths, school.

Katie is living on Long Island with experienced foster parents in their 40s who have four children of their own. News media are generally withholding the family’s name and hometown to protect her privacy.

Katie is doing well in school and on her first day even brought a classmate home to play, the source said. She likes to use the home computer and is looking forward to seeing the movie ″Aladdin.″

While Katie is generally obedient, like most children she sometimes stretches the limits: for instance, remarking, ″I have heart problems today, I can’t do my homework,″ the source said.

When her bluff is called, she quickly relents with an ″Oh, OK.″

Katie was raised from infancy by her godmother, Linda Inghilleri, and returned to live with her mother, Marilyn Beers, last year.

Former neighbors and shopkeepers described Katie as a lost soul who never seemed to have any friends. Her former classmates called her the ″cockroach kid,″ after she was sent home with head lice.

She used to hang around with adults in a pizza parlor or laundromat at all hours. Some remembered Katie, shoeless in the snow, fetching cigarettes; and, at age 4, dragging her family’s laundry up the street.

She was placed in foster care after she was released by her alleged kidnapper, John Esposito, whom she knew as ″Uncle John.″

Her mother, who is permitted regular, supervised visits, will ″do everything she can to get her back,″ said Mrs. Beers’ attorney, John Jiras.

″The child has been delighted to see her mother,″ Jiras said. ″The child stays in her arms practically the whole visit.″

Katie told police that she kissed the television screen in her prison cell when pictures of her relatives appeared on news programs.

″She’s very protective of her mother,″ said the family source. ″But she also likes her life now.

″She’s a delightful, but mixed-up kid. She’s working things through very nicely. She’s a survivor.″