A 6-year-old girl who went missing in 2019 has been found alive and safe hidden under a basement staircase in her home in upstate New York on Monday, authorities said. Paislee Shultis was abducted from her guardians by her parents, Kim Cooper and Kirk Cultis, in 2019 after they lost custody of her and kept her hidden in Saugerties, where her paternal grandfather lives, since then, authorities said.
Paislee was found by police along with her alleged abductor â her mother, police said. Officers found the young girl after an hour of searching in a makeshift room under a staircase leading to the basement.
End of a Long Search
A tip led police to reach the girl's grandfather's home on Monday night. Around 8 pm, Saugerties police detectives, officers, state police detectives, and troopers arrived on the home. Paislee's grandfather, Kirk Shultis, 57, allegedly told police he hadn't seen Paislee since 2019 and had no idea she was being held under the stairs.
However, a lot of things happened before the little girl was finally discovered. Police started searching the house and found Paislee almost after an hour hidden in a dark, wet room underneath the staircase. The house is 162 miles from where she was abducted in 2019.
Detective Erik Thiele noted that something appeared odd about the staircase and saw a blanket after flashing a light between the steps. "However, Detectives used a ... tool to remove several of the wooden steps, and that is when detectives saw a pair of tiny feet," police said in a statement on Tuesday.
"After removing several more steps, the child and her abductor were discovered within. The space was small, cold, and wet."
"After removing several more steps, the child and her abductor were discovered within," cops said. The mother, one of the alleged abductors, was also found along with Paislee.
Reunited with Her Guardians
Paislee was assessed by paramedics, who determined she was in good health and returned her to her legal guardian, according to police. On the other hand, Cooper, Shultis and Shultis' father have been arrested but Shultis and his father were released on bond on Tuesday morning.
A cop said that Paislee became excited when police passed a McDonald's on their way to reunite her with her sister and guardian â because she said she had not been treated to it in some time.
Cooper is still behind bars in the Ulster County Jail. He is being held on an additional count from family court but it is unclear what that charge is. None have been charged with kidnapping.
According to the local Daily Freeman, Paislee was four years old when her parents lost custody of her and her elder sister in Cayuga Heights, more than 150 miles away. It's unknown the biological parents lost custody of the children.
Paislee's mother and father, however, escaped with her to Saugerties on the day authorities were meant to pick up the children, according to detectives. At the time of the kidnapping, the older daughter was in school. She eventually moved in with a legal guardian, while the biological parents, for the last three years, have been hiding from law enforcement. It is unclear who Paislee was living with when she was abducted in 2019.
Police said they're still trying to find out what happened in the months since, but Paislee's parents, Kimberly Cooper, 33, and Kirk Shultis, 32, were not charged at the time.
The trio faces custodial interference and child-endangerment charges.