A 6-year-old girl was found stashed under the staircase of a home in eastern New York, more than two years after she went missing.
According to Town of Saugerties police, 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.
Paislee’s biological parents, who did not have custody of her and were suspected of abducting her, were arrested by police.
Paislee was reported missing in Cayuga Heights, Tompkins County, by Saugerties police, but Cayuga Heights police said Tuesday that was incorrect. Paislee went missing in Spencer, a Tioga County village, according to Saugerties police in a Facebook post in 2020. Police in Saugerties could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
She was last seen with Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr., according to police. Several police agencies had searched into numerous leads about Paislee’s disappearance, including several that led them to that Saugerties house. However, each time police investigated, the residents denied any knowledge of the girl’s whereabouts.
It was unknown with whom the girl was living at the time she disappeared. Cooper and Shultis Jr. were arrested on Monday, along with Kirk Shultis Sr., who lives with his wife on Fawn Road.
The investigation is still ongoing, according to police, and more arrests are expected. Paislee was taken to the police station, where paramedics met her. Police said she was in good health and had been released to her legal guardian.
More information could not be obtained immediately from the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office.
‘Something out of place’
According to police, the girl’s biological father, Shultis Jr., “resurfaced shortly after Paislee’s disappearance” and denied knowledge of his daughter’s whereabouts, saying he hadn’t 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 when police responded to the Shultis’ home after obtaining reports that Paislee was being held there. At 8:06 p.m., Saugerties police and state police arrived at the house with a search warrant.
Shultis Sr. allegedly told police he had no idea where Paislee was and hadn’t seen her since she went 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 on the staircase leading from the back of the house to the basement were built, where “something was out of place,” according to police.
Thiele shined a flashlight through a crack between the wooden steps and saw what popped up to be a blanket. According to police, the staircase appeared to be solid, but they grabbed a tool and removed several of the wooden steps.
Detectives then “saw a pair of tiny feet,” according to police, and after removing a few more steps, they found Paislee and Cooper. Cooper, 33, was charged with two misdemeanors: second-degree custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child. She was also wanted on an arrest warrant issued by Ulster County Family Court, according to police.
Cooper was arrested and taken to the Ulster County Jail on the warrant after being arraigned in Saugerties Town Court. Shultis Jr., 32, and Shultis Sr., 57, were charged with felony first-degree custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child. They were both arraigned and released in Saugerties Town Court. They were unable to be reached for comment.
Cooper, Shultis Jr., and Shultis Sr. all had protection orders issued against them to keep them away from Paislee. They are planning to appear in court again on Wednesday.