SAUGERTIES, New York — More than two years after she disappeared, a 6-year-old girl was found stashed under the staircase of a home in eastern New York.
The case broke Monday night when a detective pried open the staircase and found Paislee Shultis in a “small, cold, and wet” secret room, where she was hiding with her biological, “non-custodial” mother in a Fawn Road home, according to to Town of Saugerties police.
Police arrested Paislee’s biological parents, who did not have custody of her and had been suspected of abducting her.
Saugerties police initially said Paislee disappeared in Cayuga Heights in Tompkins County, but Cayuga Heights police said Tuesday that was untrue. Saugerties police said in a Facebook post in 2020 that Paislee went missing in Spencer, a village in Tioga County. Saugerties police could not be reached for clarification Tuesday.
She had last been seen with Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr., police said at the time. Multiple police agencies had investigated numerous leads about Paislee’s disappearance of her, including several that led police to that Saugerties house. But each time police checked it out the residents denied any knowledge of the girl’s whereabouts of her.
It was not immediately clear with whom the girl was living when she disappeared.
Cooper and Shultis Jr. were arrested Monday, along with Kirk Shultis Sr., who owns the house on Fawn Road with his wife.
Police said the investigation is ongoing and more arrests are pending.
Paislee was taken to the police station, where she was met by paramedics. She was in good health and released to her legal guardian, police said.
The Ulster County District Attorney’s Office could not immediately be reached for more information.
‘something out of place’
Police said Shultis Jr., the girl’s biological father, “resurfaced shortly after Paislee’s disappearance” and denied knowledge of his daughter’s whereabouts, and told police that he had not seen her since 2019, when he reported Cooper fled to Pennsylvania with his daughter.
During some follow-ups at the Fawn Road home, police said Shultis Jr. and his father allowed officers “limited access” to look around the home, “knowing the child and her abductor were hidden within the house and would not be found.”
The mystery of Paislee’s whereabouts was solved Monday, though, when police went to the Shultis’ home on a tip that Paislee was being held there. At 8:06 pm Saugerties police and state police took a search warrant to the house.
Shultis Sr. allegedly told police he did not know where Paislee was and he had not seen her since she was reported missing in 2019.
Police had been searching the house for more than an hour when Detective Erik Thiele noticed something odd about the way the steps were built on the staircase leading from the back of the home to the basement, where “something was out of place,” police said .
Thiele shone a flashlight through a crack between the wooden steps and saw what he thought was a blanket. The staircase seemed solid, police said, but they grabbed a tool and removed several of the wooden steps.
Detectives then “saw a pair of tiny feet,” police said, and after removing several more steps, they found Paislee and Cooper.
Cooper, 33, was charged with second-degree custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child, both misdemeanors. She was also wanted on an arrest warrant issued through Ulster County Family Court, police said.
Cooper was arraigned in Saugerties Town Court and taken to the Ulster County Jail on the warrant.
Shultis Jr., 32, and Shultis Sr., 57, were both charged with first-degree custodial interference, a felony, and endangering the welfare of a child. They were both rooted in Saugerties Town Court and released. They could not be reached for comment.
Cooper, Shultis Jr. and Shultis Sr. all had orders of protection issued against them to stay away from Paislee. They are due back in court Wednesday.
Follow Matt Spillane on Twitter @MattSpillane.
This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Missing girl in NY found alive in staircase 2 years after kidnapping
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism