When 4-year-old Paislee Shultis went missing in Spencer, N.Y., in July 2019, police say they had a good idea of the girl’s whereabouts and who might have taken her.
Investigators said they suspected Paislee was about 173 miles east in Saugerties, N.Y., with her biological father, who did not have custody of the girl. But every time police showed up at his house on Fawn Road, he denied knowing where the girl was, according to police. When officers entered the home and searched for Paislee on multiple occasions, she was nowhere to be found.
That is, until Detective Erik Thiele, while executing a search warrant at the home on Monday, noticed something was off about a staircase leading from the back of the house to the basement. Shining his flashlight through a crack in the wooden steps, he saw a blanket. After removing several steps from the staircase, detectives spotted a pair of tiny feet.
After several more steps were removed, police found Paislee hiding with 33-year-old Kimberly Cooper in a “dark and wet” enclosure, the Saugerties Police Department said in a news release Monday.
Paislee was checked out by paramedics and released in “good health” to her legal guardian.
Now, Cooper, 32-year-old Kirk Shultis Jr. and 57-year-old Kirk Shultis Sr. have been charged with custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child, police said. Cooper and Shultis Jr. are Paislee’s biological parents, according to police. Shultis Sr. is Paislee’s grandfather.
Attempts to reach Cooper, Shultis Jr. and Shultis Sr. were unsuccessful.
Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra told WLNY that Cooper and Shultis Jr. abducted Paislee in 2019 after the couple lost custody of the little girl and her sister.
Cooper is being held in jail on a separate warrant. Shultis Jr. and Shultis Sr. were released, police said.
“The good news is the child has been located, she is now reunited with her older sibling and in the custody of her legal guardian,” Sinagra told The Washington Post in an email.
He added that police will continue to investigate whether other people interviewed by officers “lied about their knowledge of the missing child’s whereabouts.”
After Paislee was reported missing in 2019, an investigation led police to Fawn Road on multiple occasions, police said. Each time, police said, Shultis Jr. denied knowing where the little girl was, claiming he had not seen her since 2019 when Cooper had fled with Paislee to Pennsylvania. Searches of the house also turned up nothing.
That changed when police received a tip that the child was in a “hidden location” at the house, police said. Officers showed up to the home around 8 p.m. Monday with a warrant and searched for about an hour.
Thiele was walking up and down the stairs to the basement and something “just bothered the detective,” Sinagra told WRGB. “As he put it, he doesn’t know exactly what it was, but just something was odd about that staircase.”
After shining a light into the staircase, the chief said, it turned out the detective was right.