A six-year-old girl has been found alive in a secret room under a basement staircase two years after she vanished.
Paislee Shultis from New York state went missing shortly after a judge ordered she be removed from the care of her parents, Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jnr, in July 2019. Paislee and her older sister were to be placed in the care of a legal guardian.
It's unclear why Kimberly (33) and Kirk (32) lost custody of Paislee as court records are sealed, but it's since emerged the couple apparently snatched their then-four-year-old daughter while her sister was at school.
On the day authorities were scheduled to pick up the kids, Kimberly and Kirk fled with Paislee from their home in Spencer, New York, to Saugerties, where Kirk’s father stays.
Her sister was placed in the care of their appointed guardian but for nearly two years police searched for Paislee.
At the time police suspected the pair of abducting their younger daughter but leads in the case quickly went cold.
Police had made several visits to the home where Paislee was eventually found but never had enough information to obtain a warrant.
“Everything was hearsay,” Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Singara says.
“Nobody had factual information.”
But things changed on Valentine’s Day this year. Officers received a tipoff with sufficient information for a search warrant of the home of Kirk’s father, Kirk Snr. It was more than 200km from where Paislee had been taken.
Detective Erik Thiele was relieved to discover Paislee in a hidden space underneath the stairs that led to the basement.
He says he’d noticed “something about the staircase leading from the back of the residence into the basement of the house”.
After alerting his colleagues, the cops removed several wooden panels from the staircase.
Then they saw Paislee’s little feet sticking out.
She was hiding in a “small, cold and wet” space under the stairs with Kimberley.
Kirk Snr (57) allegedly told police he’d last seen his granddaughter in 2019 and had no idea she was being kept in his home.
Fortunately the little girl was in good health.
After being assessed by medics, Paislee was released into the care of her legal guardian and reunited with her sister.
Her parents and her grandfather have all been arrested.
Kimberly, Kirk Jnr and Snr now face charges of custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.
Saugerties police say additional arrests are pending as they investigate the case further.
SOURCES: MIRROR.CO.UK, PEOPLE.COM, NBCNEWYORK.COM, NYPOST.COM