SAUGERTIES, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The father and grandfather of Paislee Shultis, the 6-year-old girl who was found safe in Saugerties after being missing for over two and a half years, appeared in Saugerties Town Court Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, Paislee’s mother, Kimberly, is set to appear in court at the beginning of March.
Paislee’s father and grandfather, Kirk Shultis Jr. and Sr. were charged with felony custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child. Her mother faces the same, but a misdemeanor custodial instead of felony at this time. Shultis Junior and Senior are due back in the courtroom on April 27 following a review.
Paislee was located safe underneath a staircase on Monday night in what’s been described as a cold, dark, and wet place. Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra said the space was used as a hiding spot and that the young girl was not forced to live there.
Police were able to locate her after receiving new information that allowed them to execute a search warrant at the home. About an hour and a half into the search, a detective noticed the staircase, finding the construction odd. After shining a flashlight through a crack, he noticed what appeared to be a blanket, eventually finding Paislee and her mother.
“Without that tip, pushing police to go there, and that detective, who had the wherewithal to keep searching for her, she would still be missing,” said Angeline Hartmann, Director of Communications for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, who encourages everyone to be aware of missing children in their area.
The little girl was reported missing in July of 2019 in Tioga County when she was just 4-years-old, with authorities believing her biological parents, who lost custody, abducted her. “We don’t have that information as to what precipitated that custody removal,” Sinagra said.
In the more than two and a half years she was missing, police do not believe Paislee received an education, with the chief noting that detectives found out that she cannot read or write. “That’s a disadvantage,” Sinagra said. “This is the sad part of this story, she’s missed out on that part of life of going to school, and now hopefully she’ll have that opportunity to do that.”
After being checked by paramedics, Paislee was released in good health to her legal guardian and reunited with her older sister. “This is something they always felt that the child was close by,” the chief said. “As tragic as part of this story is, there’s a good side to this story, that was being the reunited of Paislee and her sister, and the legal guardian being able to once again gain guardianship of these children.”
While she’s been reunited, Hartmann says there are still potential challenges, “We don’t know what the life she’s been living, what she has been exposed to, what she’s been told. What is this adjustment phase going to be like? There’s so much unknown with this, it’s not just wrapped up in a pretty bow,” she explained.
Three people were arrested in connection with the investigation, with the chief saying additional arrests are expected in the near future.