Before Finding Girl Under Stairs, Officers Found Her Bedroom

Father claimed it was only set up in case Paislee Shultis returned home: police
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2022 7:50 AM CST
'Corroborated' Tip Led Cops to Missing Girl Under Stairs
From left: Kirk D. Shultis Jr., Kimberly Cooper Shultis, and Kirk D. Shultis Sr.   (Saugerties Police Department)

(Newser) – Police long suspected Paislee Shultis, a child missing for two years in New York, could be found in the home of her biological parents, who do not have custody of her. They just couldn't prove it—until a tip arrived Monday. "This tip was fresh, it was factual. The information provided was corroborated," Saugerties Police Department Chief Joseph Sinagra tells CNN, without revealing what officers learned. It was enough for officers to gain legal access to the Saugerties home and conduct a more involved search than at any time during their dozen previous visits, during which they were rarely allowed to enter the house. Even when did enter, they were granted only "limited access," says Sinagra.

Officers had never set foot in any bedroom or the basement. "We can't execute a search warrant or act on hearsay, we have to act on factual information," Sinagra says. And on Monday, "we obtained factual information. And that's what made it so much different." In the basement, officers found what looked to be an apartment with a kitchen and several bedrooms, one of which had Paislee's name on the wall. "There [were] clothing items that were spread about the bedroom, the bed had appeared to have been slept in," Sinagra notes. But Paislee's biological father and grandfather, Kirk Shultis Jr. and Sr., 32 and 57 respectively, allegedly claimed it was set up for Paislee just in case she was found.

Then a detective noticed an anomaly with the staircase. Underneath was an alcove in which 6-year-old Paislee and her mother Kimberly Cooper Shultis, 33, were hiding, say police, who believe the location was used to hide the child when they previously came to the home. Paislee is now with her legal guardian: a grandmother who also has custody of Paislee's sister. Her mother, father, and grandfather have been released from custody after pleading not guilty to charges including endangering the welfare of a child, per People. Cooper Shultis is additionally charged with second-degree custodial interference, while Shultis Jr. and Sr. are charged with custodial interference in the first degree. (Read more missing child stories.)

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