SAUGERTIES, N.Y. (WTEN/WETM) – When she was just 4 years old, Paislee Shultis disappeared from Spencer in July 2019, according to the Department of Criminal Justice Services. Investigators believed she had been abducted by her non-custodial parents, Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis, Jr.
After receiving a tip that she was being held in a hidden location in Saugerties, police obtained a search warrant for the home. According to the Saugerties Police Department, the homeowner denied having seen Paislee since her disappearance in 2019.
On Feb. 14 at 8:06 p.m., Saugerties and New York State Police investigators entered and searched the home. After about an hour, police noticed something “odd” about a staricase, and shined a light through a crack between the steps. After seeing what they believed to be a blanket, officers removed some of the step boards and saw Paislee’s feet, according to the press release.
“Upon inspecting the staircase, the structure appeared to be solid. However, detectives used a [halligan] tool to remove several of the wooden steps, and that is when detectives saw a pair of tiny feet,” according to the release.
When they removed the step boards, police said, they found both Paislee and Cooper — who is accused of abducting the child — hiding in the “small, cold, and wet” room.
“The detective just said it was just it was the feeling that he had it was just the way the steps felt when he walked on them,” Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagrah said. “It just didn’t it didn’t seem right to him as he stated to me, it just it was something odd about it.”
Sinagrah then said he used the flashlight to look between the cracks of the stair boards, and that’s when he saw what he believed was a blanket. Ultimately, Sinagrah ripped the stairs apart, pulled the boards off the staircase, and discovered the child.
The girl was transported to the Saugerties Police Department’s headquarters, where paramedics met and examined her. She was later released to her legal guardian in good health and reunited with her older sister.
Police had made previous visits to the home, and both Kirk Shultis Jr. and Kirk Shultis Sr. had allowed authorities “limited access” to look for the girl. The release said the men allegedly knew Paislee was in the home and would not be found.
Cooper, 33, is charged with second-degree Custodial Interference and second-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Police said Cooper was also wanted on a warrant from the Ulster County Family Court, and she was taken to the Ulster County Jail.
Shultis Jr., 32, is charged with first-degree Custodial Interference and first-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
Shultis’ 57-year-old father, Kirk Shultis Sr., faces charges of first-degree Custodial Interference and Endangering the Welfare of a Child.
Both Shultis Jr. and Sr. were arraigned and released on their own recognizance. Stay-away orders of protection have been issued against all three suspects.
The investigation is ongoing and additional arrests are still pending. 18 News will have more information as it becomes available.