SAUGERTIES, N.Y. (WTEN) – A little girl who disappeared in 2019 has been found under the stairs of a New York residence.
Paislee Shultis was 4 years old when she was reported missing from Spencer, New York, on July 13, 2019.
Investigators believed the girl had been abducted by her non-custodial parents, Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr.
After receiving a tip that the child was being held in a hidden location at 35 Fawn Road in Saugerties, New York, police obtained a search warrant for the home.
On Feb. 14 at 8:06 p.m., Saugerties and New York State Police investigators entered and searched the home. The homeowner, who was not immediately identified, denied having seen the girl since she disappeared in 2019, police said.
A little over an hour into their search, police found the child inside a small makeshift room underneath a closed staircase.
Detective Erik Thiele had noticed that the wooden steps “were odd, something was out of place.”
He used a flashlight to shine a light through a crack between the steps and saw what he thought was a blanket.
“Upon inspecting the staircase, the structure appeared to be solid. However, detectives used a [halligan] tool to remove several of the wooden steps, and that is when detectives saw a pair of tiny feet,” according to the release.
When they removed the step boards, police said, they found both the girl and Cooper — who is accused of abducting the child — hiding in the dark room.
“The space was small, cold, and wet,” the release stated.
The girl was transported to the Saugerties Police Department’s headquarters, where she was seen by paramedics. She was later released to her legal guardian in good health and reunited with her older sister.
Cooper, 33, is charged with second-degree custodial interference and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child. She was also wanted on a warrant from the Ulster County Family Court. She was taken to the Ulster County Jail.
Shultis Jr., 32, is charged with first-degree custodial interference and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
Also charged is Shultis’ 57-year-old father, Kirk Shultis Sr. He faces charges of first-degree custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.
Both Shultis Jr. and Sr. were arraigned and released on their own recognizance. Stay-away orders of protection have been issued against all three suspects.
Police had made previous visits to the home, and both Shultis Jr. and Sr. had allowed authorities “limited access” to look for the girl, “knowing the child and her abductor were hidden within the house and would not be found,” according to the release.
The investigation is ongoing and additional arrests are still pending.