After receiving a tip, police have found a girl who disappeared at age four nearly three years ago, alive, being kept hidden in a “small, cold and wet” room built under a stairway, some 162 miles away from her abduction spot.
Nearly three years ago, police responded to a report that 4-year-old Paislee Shultis had been abducted from where she lived in Cayuga Heights, in Tioga County, located in New York’s Finger Lakes region ABC and NBC reported.
At the time of the abduction in 2019, Paislee and her older sister lived with legal guardians. The Daily Mail reported that the children’s biological parents, Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, and Kimberly Cooper, 33, lost custody. It is unclear why the parents lost control of the two children. The identity of the guardians has not been made public at the time of this writing.
At the abduction, police believed her parents had abducted her but had no evidence to prove such a conclusion.
“We believe … Somebody informed the parents that the older child had been picked up by the legal guardian and by county officials at the time and that caused the parents then to take Paislee and flee,” Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra told WNYT.
After receiving a tip that Paislee was being kept at a hidden location in Saugerties, Ulster County, police obtained a warrant to search a house there. The property had been searched multiple times before.
The housing authority searched is owned by her grandfather Kirk Shultis Sr., 57. Over the years, when searches occurred at home, police said the owner always “denied any knowledge of the little girl’s whereabouts.”
When questioned, the girl’s biological father, Kirk Shultis Jr., allegedly told police he hadn’t seen Paislee since 2019, telling authorities that her biological mother, Kimberly Cooper, had fled to Pennsylvania with the girl.
On Monday, Police searched Paislee’s grandfather’s home for a little over an hour before they noticed something strange about how the basement staircase was built. The stairs led from the back of the residence into the home’s basement. Something wasn’t right about it, and it caught their attention.
Police were able to shine a flashlight through a crack in the boards and saw there was something behind there. Crying the boards loose and shining a flashlight through the gap, they were able to see a blanket, then a pair of tiny feet. Police then removed more panels and discovered a small, makeshift room.
Police used a tool to remove the boards that comprised the steps.
“After removing several more steps [of the staircase], the child and her abductor were discovered within,” a police spokesperson said.
On Monday, Paislee Shultis, now six, was discovered hidden in a house in the town of Saugerties after a search, the BBC reported. Paislee was examined by paramedics on the scene and was in good health. She is now back in the custody of her legal guardian, where she is also reunited with her older sister.
After Paislee was discovered under the stairs, police arrested both of her biological/non-custodial parents, Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr. Authorities charged both parents with custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.
The homeowner, Paislee’s grandfather, Kirk Shultis Sr., was charged with first-degree custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.
Both Shultis, Jr., and Shultis, Sr., were released on their own recognizance, according to police, while Cooper remains in custody over an outstanding warrant issued in Ulster County Family Court.