Paisley Shultis was abducted at the age of four in 2019. Now she is six.
The mother, accused of kidnapping her daughter and hiding her in a makeshift shack-like room under the stairs of their upstate New York home, smirked in the picture, while the girl’s father had a blank expression.
Kimberley Cooper, 33, and Kirk Schultis Jr., 32, were arrested Monday night after police found Paisley Schultis, 6, in a dark, damp room under the stairs at Saugerty’s home. They kept her isolated from society for more than two years.
After rescuing Paisley, who was reportedly found in good health, detectives treated the girl to a McDonald’s Happy Meal after picking her up from her home.
Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra told CBS New York that the girl was heading to the police station as they passed a fast food restaurant. She told the officers that she had not eaten there in a long time, prompting them to turn around and buy her food.
After being “released in good health”, Paisley was reunited with her older sister and an unknown legal guardian. However, authorities expressed concern about her emotional, social and academic well-being.
“First of all, this little girl didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. We’re pretty sure she probably didn’t get proper medical attention,” Sinagra said.
“Obviously, the family simply couldn’t take her to the doctor because she was listed as missing. Another problem is that you have a child who does not write or read because he did not have the opportunity to go to school. Now they will.
The police released photos of her alleged abductors, her parents not in custody. Kimberly Cooper, 33 (pictured), appears to be smirking despite being charged with second-degree interference with custody and misdemeanor endangering a child’s well-being.
Kirk Schultis Jr. (pictured) was charged with one count of felony of first-degree imprisonment and misdemeanor endangering the well-being of a child.
This is the makeshift room under the stairs where Paisley Schulties was found living at her paternal grandfather’s house on Monday night.
The police turned on the lights above the stairs and were able to see the dirty blanket from behind the stairs.
Paisley, four, was reported missing in July 2019 after she was taken from her legal guardian’s home in Cayuga Heights, located about 162 miles from where she was found on Tuesday. It is not clear why her parents lost custody of their daughter.
The police had long suspected Cooper and Schultis of kidnapping the girl and believed that she was being held in the Saugerty house, owned by her grandfather, Kirk Schultis Sr.
The police searched the property many times but found nothing. Residents have repeatedly “denied any knowledge of the little girl’s whereabouts.”
However, this week there was a report that the girl was being held in the house, resulting in officers obtaining a warrant to search the property.
During a search, Detective Saugertys Eric Thiele “noted something in the stairs leading from the back of the residence to the basement of the house that caught his attention.”
“He took a flashlight and looked into the cracks between the steps,” Sinagra told the TV channel.
“He saw what he thought was a blanket, and at that point they used a halogen tool, a forced penetration tool, and they started tearing the steps away from the stairs themselves. At some point, they saw little legs, as he put it.
The property belongs to Paisley’s grandfather, Kirk Shultis Sr., who was also arrested and charged with one count of felony of first-degree imprisonment and misdemeanor endangering the well-being of a child.
This is the family home in Saugerties, New York, where the family lived. Police said the girl had her own bedroom in the house.
On the site where the girl lived secretly for three years, there is a children’s playground.
Soon after, Paisley and her mother were found hiding in a makeshift room.
“It was pretty messy. It was cold. The blankets lay on the ground, on the concrete floor. They were completely wet and very heavy,” Sinagra recalled.
“Now we are sure that every time in the last two years, when we came to the residence with new leads, this is where the child and mother will hide.”
Shultis and his father, Kirk Shultis Sr., were arrested and each was charged with one count of felony of first-degree imprisonment and misdemeanor endangering the well-being of a child.
They were both released on bail on Tuesday morning.
Cooper was charged with tampering with second-degree custody and misdemeanor endangering the well-being of a child.
She is still behind bars in the Ulster County Jail on an outstanding warrant issued by the Ulster County Family Court. It is not clear what the accusation is.
All three suspects were issued protection orders and none of them were charged with kidnapping. Saugerty police say more arrests are expected.
Kirk Shultis Jr. is pictured at home on Tuesday after being released from jail on bail. He said “The truth will come out” but didn’t comment further.
The house in Saugerties, New York, where the girl was found on Monday evening after an anonymous report.
Schultis family home in Saugerties, New York. The family did not comment publicly.
Meanwhile, the neighbors are stunned that the missing girl has been in the house all this time.
“I’m just shocked because they seemed like ordinary people,” said Annette Wrolsen.
Although the neighbors never saw the girl outside the house, preliminary investigation showed that she had her own bedroom.
“Paisley was written on the wall,” Sinagra shared. “There were items of clothing. It turned out that someone slept in the bed, and someone used the bedroom.
“And, of course, my father and grandfather said: “No, they arranged this room in such a way that if Paisley was ever found, she would have somewhere to return to.”