Paislee Shultis was four years old when she went missing from her Cayuga Heights home, with police initially suspecting her non-custodial parents - Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr - as her abductors, but did not bring charges.
New York State Police found the girl more than 150 miles away yesterday (Monday 14 February), having acted on a tip that she was being hidden in Saugerties, a town in the Hudson Valley.
Police obtained a warrant to search a home on Fawn Road after receiving information that the youngster was being held at a residence on the street.
According to NBC New York, the owner denied any knowledge of Shultis’ whereabouts when police knocked on the door, saying she hadn’t seen her since the child was reported missing.
However, more than an hour into the search of the property, police found Shultis and her non-custodial mother, Kimberley Cooper, in a ‘makeshift room’ concealed beneath a closed staircase, which led to the house’s basement.
NBC New York reports that the two were found ‘hiding in the dark and wet enclosure once officers removed the step boards’.
Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra said in a statement: “A little over an hour into the search of the residence, the child was located secreted in a makeshift room, under a closed staircase leading to the basement of the residence.”
The girl, now aged six-and-a-half, was taken to hospital for examination and was thankfully found to be in good health, and was later released to be reunited with her older sister.
Cooper, 33, was arrested on charges including custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.
The child’s non-custodial father, Kirk Shultis Jr, was charged with felony custodial interference and misdemeanor child endangerment.
His father, Kirk Shultis Sr, also faces the same charges as his son, with all three ordered to stay away from the kidnapped girl.
In a police statement, it was revealed how Saugerties Detective Erik Thiele 'noticed something about the staircase leading from the back of the residence into the basement of the house that caught his attention'.
After shining a torch into the stairs, detectives saw a pair of small feet.
“After removing several more steps, the child and her abductor were discovered within,” a police spokesperson said.
Police said the investigation is ongoing, and that additional arrests are pending.
Featured Image Credit: Saugerties Police
Topics: US News