More than two years after she disappeared, a 6-year-old girl was found living in squalid conditions hidden under the staircase of a home in eastern New York!
Paislee Shultis was located in a home in the town of Saugerties in a “small, cold, and wet” room under a staircase in a house just three hours from where she originally went missing in 2019.
Paislee, who was a mere four years old when she went missing, was found in “good health,” Saugerties police said. She is now back in the custody of her legal guardian and reunited with her older sister, police added.
Her non-custodial parents, Kimberly Cooper, 33, and Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, have been charged with custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.
Shultis was reported missing July 13, 2019, from Cayuga Heights, in the state’s Finger Lakes region, several hours west of Saugerties.
On Monday, after receiving a tip that the child might be held at a hidden location in Saugerties, police obtained a search warrant for the home.
When police entered the home, the homeowner, Kirk Shultis’ father, denied seeing the girl since she went missing in 2019. A little over an hour into their search, police noticed the basement staircase was strangely built and were able to shine a flashlight through a crack in the boards. When they were removed, police located the child and Cooper inside a small makeshift room, according to a press release.
Kirk Shultis Sr., 57, was also charged with first-degree custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.
“We should all wait until the facts come out,” said Carol K. Morgan, who represents Cooper. “Everyone should be patient before they draw their own conclusions.”
In the basement of the house, detectives searching for the girl found an apartment, including a bedroom with Paislee’s name on a wall, Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra told the press. The bed appeared to have been slept in.
“Our officers asked, ‘Is she here?’ … And they denied that anybody was living in that house, in that particular room,” the chief said in an interview. “They said they had set the room up like that in the event that Paislee should ever return.”
Throughout the 2.5-year investigation, authorities received several tips about the Saugerties-area home where the child was eventually located — but each time, the residents denied knowing anything about the girl’s whereabouts, a department press release said.
Sinagra told CNN on Wednesday that officers previously had been in the home roughly a dozen times but were not allowed in the basement or bedroom areas.
Sinagra said that officers previously had been in the home roughly a dozen times but were not allowed in the basement or bedroom areas.
“We’re bothered by the fact that this went on for two years,” the chief said. “They lied to us for two years — including the father stating that he had no idea where his daughter was.”
But that all changed when police received information the child was being hidden, and this time they were able to obtain a warrant to search the entire home.
According to the press release, police arrested Cooper and Shultis Jr. — the girl’s biological parents — as well as Shultis Sr.
The day after she was returned to her legal guardians, “detectives met with the family that has the child, and she was in very good spirits,” the chief said.