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Her middle school security guard held her captive for 10 years. Now Tanya Kach is revealing how she survived a decade locked upstairs

Her middle school security guard held her captive for 10 years. Now Tanya Kach is revealing how she survived a decade locked upstairs

Tanya Kach’s story had all the makings of a Lifetime movie — and now it is one.

Kach is speaking out about the harrowing ordeal of being held captive for a decade from age 14, after fellow kidnapping survivor, Elizabeth Smart, convinced her to share her story.

“A lot of women have messaged me, reaching out to me and opening up about something that happened in their life because they feel comfortable talking with me because I understand,” the now 42-year-old told The Independent, just days after The Girl Locked Upstairs: The Tanya Kach Story premiered on Lifetime.

The Pennsylvania teen had been struggling at home and at school in the wake of her parents’ tumultuous divorce before she vanished in February 1996.

Months earlier, when Kach tried to skip class at Cornell Middle School in the Pittsburgh suburb of McKeesport to avoid the peers who bullied her, she was caught by a school security guard.

But instead of turning her in, Thomas “Tom” Hose, who at 38 years old was more than twice her age, took an interest in her and the two became close.

Hose showered her with flowers, candy, gifts and money for cigarettes. They even shared a kiss in the stairwell. She started to believe she was in love with him.

He learned of Kach’s unstable home life, her thoughts about wanting to run away and so after gaining her trust, he preyed on her vulnerabilities and convinced her to move in with him – with the promise of a better life.

But what may have started out as a desperate attempt at a new beginning for Kach quickly turned into a nightmare.

Tanya Kach was 14 years old when she vanished in 1996. She was found 10 years later in her captor’s bedroom just a few miles from her home
Tanya Kach was 14 years old when she vanished in 1996. She was found 10 years later in her captor’s bedroom just a few miles from her home (McKeesport Police handout)

Inside Tanya’s prison

On February 10, 1996, Kach was lured to Hose’s house in McKeesport where she was held captive for 10 years.

The house, where Hose lived with his parents and his son, was just a few miles away from where Kach had been living with her father and stepmom before she went missing.

Hose’s parents later claimed they never knew Kach was in their house, according to The Associated Press.

Kach’s nightmare ended when she confided in a neighborhood deli owner and was able to escape. She was 24 years old at the time.

For the first four years of her decade-long captivity, Kach wasn’t allowed to leave Hose’s second-story bedroom, where she was kept locked inside and sexually abused daily.

She was forced to use a metal can as a toilet and Hose would bring her scraps of food from his meals.

Hose also forced Kach to record their sexual encounters in a set of journals so that he could “brag to co-workers and friends,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by The Associated Press.

“He had me keep a calendar book of our sex acts, so I knew the dates,” she said.

Years passed but still, she was too scared to escape.

Thomas Hose, who lived with his parents and son, kept Tanya Kach in his bedroom for 10 years
Thomas Hose, who lived with his parents and son, kept Tanya Kach in his bedroom for 10 years (WTAE)

“He’d threaten to kill me in my sleep,” Kach told The Independent. “He threatened to throw me in a garbage bag and throw me in the river.”

When Kach was 18, she discovered she was a missing person after seeing her name and photo in the local newspaper.

Around that time, Hose began introducing her to his family and friends as his live-in girlfriend “Nikki Allen” and even allowed her to leave home on occasion, believing that at this point, she would not run away.

“He trusted me to go out because he knew I was brainwashed,” she said.

She was permitted to go to church or the neighborhood deli, but had a strict curfew.

“I was scared,” she said, describing her first time out in public.

“He had given me those specific instructions and everything and I was following the instructions, doing what I had to do, but I was like a deer in the headlights out there.”

Her daring escape

During her brief outings, Kach began working part-time at a neighborhood deli. She developed a friendship with the owners, who would change her life.

“I saw how a family should be,” she told The Independent. “And I said ‘that’s what I want.’”

That family helped Kach realize that what she had with Hose, and her life over the past 10 years, was not normal.

She eventually found the courage to confide in the deli’s owner, Joe Sparico, on March 21, 2006.

“If you go to a website for missing children, you will see a picture of me,” she told Sparico through tears, according to The Denver Post.

Sparico contacted his son, a retired police officer who was familiar with Kach’s case. A short time later, Hose was arrested.

“I’ll never forget how it felt to step out of that house that day,” she later wrote, according to People. “I got into the cop car, took a deep breath and thought, ‘It’s over. I’m free.’”

What happened to Thomas Hose?

In 2007, Thomas Hose pleaded guilty to statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault and endangering the welfare of children, corruption of a minor, interference with custody of children and aggravated indecent assault, according to The Associated Press.

Hose was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

At his hearing, Kach read a victim impact statement, telling Hose that she was no longer his “puppet.”

After serving 15 years in prison, Thomas Hose was released in 2022
After serving 15 years in prison, Thomas Hose was released in 2022 ( PA Megan’s Law)

“You took away my innocence, my childhood. You made me think my family didn’t want me or love me, that no one cared or loved me but you,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “For 10 years you controlled me.”

“I plan to go places,” she told him, adding that “the main thing I want to do is help protect children and women from men like you.”

Hose apologized in court for how he treated Kach.

“I’d like to say I’m sorry,” he said. “I want Tanya to know how sorry I am.”

He ended his statement claiming that his actions were done so to help Kach and that she often told him, “Thank you, without you, I’d be dead or in the streets,” according to NBC News.

After serving 15 years in prison, Hose was released in 2022, according to WTAE. He is registered as a sex offender under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law.

Where is Tanya Kach now?

Kach went on to live a successful life. She earned her GED, got her driver’s license and attended college.

“I’ve built myself a really happy life,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

She co-authored a book in 2017 with Lawrence Fisher titled, Memoir of a Milk Carton Kid: The Tanya Kach Story.

Tanya Kach today in a selfie she took
Tanya Kach today in a selfie she took (Provided by Tanya Kach)

In September 2018, Kach married a man named Carl and became a stepmother, as well as a grandmother to her stepson’s young children.

“We had a beautiful ceremony on the beach. It was just us there, we wanted something very private,” Kach told People in a previous interview. “He’s been my rock and he’s my biggest supporter through all of this and through life and everything.”

While she was happy to be reunited with her father after being rescued, she has since revealed that he believes she is partly responsible for her own kidnapping. After a bittersweet reunion, the two became estranged and have not spoken since.

However, Tanya and her mother have become close.

“My mom and I are really close now,” she said. “She became my biggest supporter and helped get me back on my feet after my rescue. We’ve gone through intense therapy together and things are really good.”

About a year ago, Kach ran into Joe Sparico, the deli owner who saved her.

“We were walking into a supermarket and we hugged and we caught up on everything in life, because life kind of gets in the way,” she said.

“But Joe wanted me to go out and build a life and live my life and, you know, and that’s what I’ve done.”

The Girl Locked Upstairs: The Tanya Kach Story is now available on Lifetime.


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