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MISSING GIRL FOUND IN HIDDEN BUNKER

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A 10-year-old Long Island girl missing for 16 days has been found alive in a TV-equipped dungeon under the home of a family friend who had reported her missing and tearfully pleaded for her return.

Katie Beers was found Wednesday in the hidden bunker in the Bay Shore home of John Esposito, 43, where she had been imprisoned - sometimes chained by the neck - police said.Esposito reported the girl's disappearance Dec. 28 from an indoor entertainment arcade where he said they had gone after shopping for a birthday present.

The day she disappeared, Katie left a frantic message on her godmother's telephone tape, saying she had been kidnapped by a man with a knife.

Police traced numerous leads and reported sightings of the girl as far away as upstate New York.

The girl, who turned 10 on Dec. 30, was reported to be healthy and was turned over to Suffolk County Child Protective Services, which gave her a medical examination. Police said she was alert and had been describing her ordeal to investigators.

She was "overwhelmed and extremely happy to be free," said Suffolk County Police Lt. Dominic Verrone.

Police said the girl probably had been held in the 6-by-7-foot dungeon, complete with a bed, toilet and television, since Dec. 28.

Esposito was scheduled to be arraigned on kidnapping charges Thursday. Additional charges against him were pending.

Esposito's attorney, Sidney Siben, said he expected Esposito to be charged with sexual abuse.

"My client is obviously a disturbed man," he said.

Authorities said Esposito was arrested several years ago for abducting a 12-year-old boy. They said he insisted that Katie was happier living with him than at her own home, where she was the center of a complicated custody battle involving her mother and a family with whom she had spent much of her childhood.

Esposito led police to the carefully concealed underground fortress in a converted garage in the rear of his home at 2 p.m. Wednesday and found the little girl.

The hiding place went undetected by the police when they searched the house with dogs earlier in her disappearance.

Detectives removed a large stereo cabinet in the converted garage and discovered a 200-pound concrete slab that required a pulley to remove and led to a hidden stairwell.

"They then went down a long narrow shaft, which led to another locked door behind which was a small, 6-foot-by-7-foot wood-paneled room that held Katie Beers," Ryan said.

"When Katie was found, the first thing I heard her say was, `I'm happy to get out of here,' " Siben said.