A New York girl who was reported missing from her Tompkins County home in July 2019, when she was 4 years old, has been located safely, police in Ulster County's Saugerties department said Tuesday.
Paislee Shultis' abductors were believed at the time to be her non-custodial parents, Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr. The leads quickly went cold.
It wasn't until Valentine's Day, a day ago, that Saugerties police obtained a warrant to search a home on Fawn Road in the town. They had received information that Shultis was being held in a hidden location at a residence on that street.
The owner denied having any knowledge of Shultis' whereabouts when detectives and New York State Police knocked on the door Monday night, saying he hadn't seen Shultis since she was reported missing.
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More than an hour into the search, though, Shultis was found in a secret makeshift room under a closed staircase leading to the basement of the home, police say. Shultis and Cooper were found hiding in the dark and wet enclosure once officers removed the step boards. The girl was taken to a hospital for examination and found to be in good health. She was later released and united with her older sister.
Both Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr., along with his father Kirk Shultis Sr., now face charges in the case. Cooper, 33, was arrested on charges including custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child, while the younger Shultis was charged with felony custodial interference and misdemeanor child endangerment.
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His father faces the same charges as he does. Attorney information for any of the defendants wasn't immediately available. Both Shultis men were arraigned and released on their own recognizance. It wasn't clear if they entered a plea.
All three defendants have been ordered to stay away from the kidnapped girl.
Saugerties police say additional arrests are pending. They, along with other police agencies, have investigated multiple leads connected to the girl's disappearance since it happened, including ones that took them to the Fawn Road home.
Every time, the owner denied knowing anything about her whereabouts, they say.
The girl's biological father, who had resurfaced shortly after he vanished, also denied any knowledge of her whereabouts and said he hadn't seen her since 2019, when he claims Cooper fled to Pennsylvania with his daughter.
Police say their investigation is ongoing.