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Girl, 6, Missing Since 2019 Found Hidden Below Basement Staircase in 'Makeshift Room'

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Paislee Shultis was just 4 years old when she disappeared on July 13, 2019. No one seemed to know where she was — just that one day she was in Tompkins County, New York, and the next day she was gone.

The circumstances surrounding her disappearance concerned authorities, who always considered Paislee’s biological parents Kimberly Cooper, 33, and Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, prime suspects.

In 2019, Shultis and Cooper lost custody of Paislee and their older daughter. On the day the girls were supposed to be relinquished, Cooper and Paislee disappeared while the older daughter was at school.

Shultis later showed up and claimed that Cooper had moved out of state and that he had no idea where his younger daughter was — he even went to court and maintained that story.

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Over the years, authorities visited the home of Shultis’ father, Kirk Shultis Sr., in Saugerties, New York, after receiving multiple leads directing them to the home, but they still couldn’t find the little girl.

Until now. On Feb. 14, police approached the home again after obtaining a search warrant. Shultis Sr. still maintained that he hadn’t seen Paislee since 2019 and had no idea where she might be.

As they searched the house, it was Saugerties Detective Erike Thiele who “noticed something about the staircase leading from the back of the residence into the basement of the house that caught his attention,” according to the Daily Freeman.

Along the basement staircase, the steps looked suspicious: There were odd gaps and as Thiele shined a flashlight across the area, he spotted part of a blanket through one of the cracks.

After moving some boards, they spotted Paislee’s feet. Paislee was alive and well, hiding in “a makeshift room, under a closed staircase leading to the basement of the residence.”

Kimberly Cooper was also in the small space, which was described as cold, wet, and dark. She and both Shultis men were arrested.

Thankfully, Paislee was checked out and found to be in good health.

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“The only problem is she hasn’t attended school and they weren’t educating her at the house,” Police Chief Joseph Sinagra told the Daily Freeman.

Paislee was soon reunited with her legal guardian and older sister, whom she remembered. On the way to be reunited with them, the detective returning Paislee to her rightful family passed a McDonald’s. The little girl lit up and reminisced about the restaurant.

“The detective turned the car around and went into McDonald’s and got her food from McDonald’s,” Sinagra said.

Authorities believe Paislee was kept at Shultis, Sr.’s house since 2019. Though they had visited the house multiple times, there were several factors that prevented them from finding her, including the fact that the home was decked out in security cameras.

“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,” Sinagra explained. “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.”

Kimberly Cooper was also wanted on an active warrant for a separate charge, but in this case, she was charged with Custodial Interference in the 2nd Degree and Endangering the Welfare of a Child, according to WABC-TV.

Kirk Shultis Jr. and Kirk Shultis Sr. were both charged with Custodial Interference in the 1st Degree and Misdemeanor Endangering the Welfare of a Child, felonies.

“It’s nice to know that the child’s been located and that the child is healthy and safe,” Sinagra said. “That’s the most important thing at the end of the day.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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