Paislee Shultis, an upstate New York girl who went missing in 2019, was found alive hiding in a secret room in her grandfather’s house. 

Shultis, who was last seen when she was 4 years old, went missing from the home of a legal guardian some time after her biological parents, Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr., lost custody for reasons that remain unclear. 

On Monday, police said they had safely removed her from the home of her paternal grandfather Kirk Shultis Sr., where she was allegedly found in a hidden compartment under a staircase. 

Shultis Sr. and both parents were taken into custody at the scene, and now face custodial interference and child endangerment charges, according to reports. None had been charged with kidnapping as of midday Tuesday.

What Happened to Paislee Shultis?

According to police and media accounts, 4-year-old Paislee Shultis was living with an unnamed legal guardian in Cayuga Heights, a suburb of Ithaca in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region, when she disappeared from her home in July 2019.

At the time, local police reportedly suspected the involvement of her non-custodial, biological parents, but they were not charged, and Paislee remained officially missing for nearly three years — almost half of her life — as her case languished.

It’s not clear when or why the parents lost custody of their daughter. 

What happened to Paislee Shultis. Police believe her biological parents kidnapped her after losing custody in 2019.
What happened to Paislee Shultis? Police believe her biological parents kidnapped her after losing custody in 2019. Photo credit: Saugerties Police

Then on Monday, a break finally came, when police received an anonymous tip that the girl and her parents were living together with a grandparent in Saugerties — a rural, Albany-area town some 150 miles from where she had been living in Cayuga Heights. 

Armed with a search warrant, authorities arrived at Kirk Shultis Sr.’s Fawn Road home the same day and began searching the property for the missing child. Shultis Sr. and both of Paislee’s parents denied knowing her whereabouts, local outlets reported.

The search continued for more than an hour with no progress, until a detective noticed a section of the staircase that seemed to stand out, police said.  

Shining his flashlight on a crack in the floorboards, the detective noticed what appeared to be a blanket and a “tiny pair of feet.”. Police said he pulled away some stairs, revealing a hidden room, with Paislee and her mother inside.  

Paislee Shultis was missing for almost 3 years before police found her in this hidden room with her mother. An investigation is ongoing to figure out what happened.
Paislee Shultis was missing for almost 3 years before police found her in this hidden room with her mother. An investigation is ongoing to figure out what happened. Photo credit: Saugerties Police

Investigators said the room was “dark” and “wet.” They provided photos of the crudely furnished compartment, which show a makeshift sleeping area. Police did not speculate how long the child was forced to stay in the hidden room, or how frequently. 

Paislee, now 6 or 7 years old, was deemed to be in “good health,” Saugerties police told reporters. She was reunited with her older sister and back in custody of her legal guardian by Tuesday, department added. 

Parents, Grandfather of Missing Girl Jailed

Kimberly Cooper, 33, Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, and Kirk Shultis Sr., 57, were all arrested at the scene, police said. All three have been charged with custodial interference and child endangerment. Prosecutors have not said if more charges are forthcoming. 

The Shultis family were arraigned and released on their own recognizance by Tuesday, local reports indicate. It’s not clear why a judge declined to set bail for the men. 

Kirk Shultis Jr. and Kimberly Cooper face criminal charges. Police believe they abducted daughter Paislee Shultis and lied about what happened.
Kirk Shultis Jr. and Kimberly Cooper face criminal charges. Police believe they abducted daughter Paislee Shultis and lied about what happened. Photo credit: Saugerties Police

Cooper, meanwhile, remained in police custody at the Ulster County Jail the day after her arrest. According to one report, she’s also facing an additional charge stemming from a family court case, but details were not immediately available. It’s unclear if the mother was arraigned or her bond amount set as of publication. 

If convicted of the custodial interference or child endangerment charges, both apparently misdemeanors, all three adults could face up to a year behind bars. 

The three suspects have also been ordered to keep away from Paislee.