The parents of a missing 6-year-old girl who was discovered under a staircase in an upstate home are seen in mugshots after being slapped with criminal charges — the mother seemingly smirking and the father with a smug expression.
Kimberly Cooper, 33, and Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, allegedly abducted Paislee Shultis after losing custody of her in 2019 — and kept her hidden in a secret room in Saugerties, where her paternal grandfather lives, authorities said.
A tip led cops to the home Monday night when an eagle-eyed detective, who spotted something off about the staircase, noticed a piece of a blanket peeking through some cracks.
“Detectives used a tool to remove several of the wooden steps, and that is when detectives saw a pair of tiny feet,” police said.
“After removing several more steps, the child and her abductor were discovered within,” cops said, adding that Paislee and her mom were found in “a makeshift room, under a closed staircase leading to the basement of the residence.”
Cooper was charged with custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child, both misdemeanors, officials said.
She also was wanted on an active warrant issued through Ulster County Family Court and is being held on $50,000 bail, the Daily Freeman reported.
Shultis and his father, Kirk Shultis Sr., 57, were each charged with a felony count of custodial interference and a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child.
The two were photographed as they arrived back home Tuesday after being released.
Shultis is seen glancing furtively toward the camera as he smokes, while his seemingly irate father points in its direction as he is about to enter the residence.
Paislee was examined by paramedics and found to be fine before she was released to the custody of her legal guardian and older sister at an undisclosed location.
She was 4 years old when her parents lost custody of her and her older sister in Cayuga Heights more than 150 miles away, according to the local Daily Freeman. It’s unclear why authorities were taking the kids.
On the day authorities were supposed to pick up the kids, Paislee’s parents fled with her to Saugerties, cops said. The older daughter had been in school at the time of the abduction. She ended up living with a legal guardian.
Police Chief Joseph Sinagra told the newspaper on Tuesday that Paislee was quiet while police searched for her for about four hours late Monday, adding that “it’s our belief at this time” that she had been kept in Saugerties since her disappearance.
The three defendants are scheduled to appear in Saugerties Town Court at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism