Police said a 6-year-old girl who was allegedly abducted in 2019 was found Monday night hidden in a “small, cold and wet” space under a staircase in her grandfather’s home in Saugerties, New York, the Daily Freeman reported.
Paislee Shultis was 4 years old when she was reported missing more than two years ago and was believed to have been abducted by her non-custodial parents, Kimberly Cooper, 33, and Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, police told the paper.
What are the details of her discovery?
After receiving information indicating that Paislee was being hidden in a home on Fawn Road, police obtained a search warrant, the paper said.
With that, Saugerties police detectives, uniformed officers, state police detectives from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and uniformed state troopers executed the warrant just after 8 p.m., the paper said.
Police said the homeowner — Kirk Shultis Sr., 57, who is Paislee’s grandfather — denied any knowledge of the child’s whereabouts and told officers he hadn’t seen her since she was reported missing in 2019, the paper said.
But during the search, Saugerties Detective Erik Thiele “noticed something about the staircase leading from the back of the residence into the basement of the house that caught his attention,” police told the paper.
Thiele thought the construction of the steps was odd, and something was out of place, the paper said, adding that with his flashlight he saw what he believed was a blanket through cracks in the wooden steps.
Detectives then removed several steps, and police told the paper “that is when detectives saw a pair of tiny feet. After removing several more steps, the child and her abductor were discovered within."
Paislee and Cooper were found in “a makeshift room, under a closed staircase leading to the basement of the residence,” the paper said, citing a release.
Image source: New York Post video screenshot
Police Chief Joseph Sinagra told the paper Paislee was quiet during the four-hour search of the house. Police added that she was taken to police headquarters where she was met by paramedics, examined, and released in good health, the paper said.
Sinagra added to the paper that Paislee was “well taken care of and in good health. The only problem is she hasn’t attended school and they weren’t educating her at the house.”
Paislee also was reunited with her legal guardian and her older sister at an undisclosed location, Sinagra told the paper, adding that she remembered her sister.
What's more, on her way to see her legal guardian and her sister, Sinagra told the paper that Paislee noticed a McDonald’s and told the detective behind the wheel that she hadn't eaten any fast food in a very long time.
“The detective turned the car around and went into McDonald’s and got her food ..." Sinagra told the paper.
Who was charged?
Cooper was charged with custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child, both misdemeanors, the paper said, adding that she also had an active warrant issued through Ulster County Family Court. Cooper was arraigned in Saugerties Town Court and sent to the Ulster County Jail on the warrant, the paper said, adding that she's being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Paislee’s father, Kirk Shultis Jr., and her grandfather, Kirk Shultis Sr., were both charged with felony custodial interference along with misdemeanors for endangering the welfare of a child, the paper said. They were arraigned in Saugerties Town Court and released with appearance tickets for a later date, the paper said, adding that the court issued stay-away orders of protection against all three defendants.
Image source: New York Post video screenshot
All three defendants are scheduled to appear in Saugerties Town Court at 3 p.m. Wednesday, the paper said.
Sinagra added to the paper that on the day authorities were to take custody of the girls in 2019, the non-custodial parents disappeared with Paislee. On a number of occasions, Sinagra said police “received leads that [Paislee] was at that house. A number of times we would go there and sometimes we were met with resistance and at other times they’d say, ‘Oh, no, you can come in and look around. There’s nobody here. The child’s not here.’ And our belief is that at times when we went into the residence, although we were given limited access, they were using this location to hide the child."
The Ithaca Voice reported that Paislee was from Spencer in Tioga County, and that initial reports that she was last seen in Tompkins County are incorrect. The Voice noted a statement from the Tompkins County Sheriff's Office: “The girl was not missing from Cayuga Heights or Tompkins County, but rather [from] Spencer in Tioga County, hence the reason it was not reported by TC law enforcement in 2019. There was apparently an error in the media release by the agency involved which has led to confusion.”