Kirk Shultis and Kimberly Cooper, the upstate New York parents accused of kidnapping their daughter after losing legal custody, were long suspected in her disappearance, according to police.
The pair were arrested earlier this week, after investigators found Cooper and her missing daughter Paislee Shultis hiding in a secret room in the home of the child’s paternal grandfather.
As Breaking Daily News has previously reported, Paislee’s parents had lost custody of their daughter roughly three years ago. In 2019, when she was 4, the child went missing from the home of her legal guardian in western New York.
On Monday, police in Saugerties — more than 1000 miles from where Paislee was last seen — received an anonymous tip that the child was staying in a nearby home. Investigators obtained a search warrant for the property, and eventually discovered the girl and her mom in a hidden compartment under the stairs.
The child was examined by medical experts and was reported to be healthy.
Now, new details have emerged to shed light on the bizarre case, including the circumstances of the young girl’s disappearance, and what police believe happened since she went missing years ago.
Kirk Shultis and Kimberly Cooper in Court
Both parents appeared in a New York criminal court on Wednesday to answer charges of child endangerment and custodial interference. The two are due back in April pending the results of a grand jury review, according to local reports.
Also charged is Kirk Shultis Sr., the father of Paislee’s father, who faces the same misdemeanor counts. If convicted, all three adults could face up to a year behind bars, as well as thousands of dollars in fines.
The Shultis men were reportedly released on their own recognizance after being arraigned on Tuesday, while Cooper languished in an Ulster County jail cell on $50,000 bond. She was bailed out on Wednesday just before her scheduled court hearing, and arrived late to the proceedings, according to Bronx News 12.
Judge Claudia Andreassen waived her appearance, and the 32-year-old mom was turned loose afterwards. Prosecutors have still not said if they intend to charge any of the three adults with Paislee’s abduction.
Police Suspected Parents for Years
Also on Wednesday, police in the Hudson Valley town where Paislee was found said they suspected her parents of her kidnapping for years before their arrest this week.
“Everything was hearsay,” Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Singara told the New York Post exclusively. “Nobody had factual information.”
He continued: “As a parent, I can understand why they did it […] I can’t imagine what it would be like to relinquish custody of one of my children.”
It’s still unclear how, why or when Paislee’s parents lost legal custody of their daughter, though one report claims that her father was arrested shortly beforehand. The court records related to that case were reportedly sealed by a family court judge.
“But as a good parent, I think you have to understand that the most difficult thing to do, to give up your child, is the right thing to do if that’s what the courts are indicating,” Singara went on. “I think this is really unfortunate for the family right now, because this is a step backwards.”
Other Details Come to Light
Other new details emerged Wednesday, as authorities in upstate New York broke their silence to shed light on the case.
For one, Saugerties police do not believe Paislee was living full-time in the small, secret compartment under the stairs where they found her.
According to reports, police had visited the Saugerties home at least a dozen times before they discovered her Monday.
In each of those cases, authorities said they were “not granted access to the home beyond the entranceway,” but claimed they could “see the girl’s bedroom from that vantage point,” including “the child’s clothes and belongings and even name on her bedroom wall.”
Additionally, Chief Singara said detectives found evidence that the secret room under the stairs was just a hiding spot for when police were at the door.
“After examining this staircase after the fact […] there were a number of screws that were put in that were stripped,” he told the Post. “That leads us to believe that that spot was used more often to hide the child and the mother each and every time we came to the house.”
Singara continued: “We know it was used multiple times because there was a blanket in there, there was a teddy bear […] It was set up so there was comfort for her when she was in there.”
Though she wasn’t living under the stairs for the last three years, authorities said Paislee had not been receiving medical care or an education since her kidnapping.
“During our initial interview unfortunately, we found that she does not read or write,” Singara said. “She was not getting educated at home so there is no homeschooling in place at all and that’s a disadvantage.”
“This is the sad part of the story,” the Saugerties police chief added. “She’s missed out on that part of life of going to school and now hopefully she’ll have an opportunity to do that.”
A final key detail — the identity of the legal guardian from whom Paislee was abducted — emerged Wednesday. Reports indicate the girl was in the custody of her grandmother when she went missing, though the woman’s name was not released.