Paislee Shultis Case: Mom, Dad, Grandfather Plead Not Guilty to Charges Involving Missing Child

Shultis suspects
Kirk Shultis Jr., left, Kimberly Cooper Shultis and Kirk Shultis Sr.Saugerties Police Department

Six-year-old Paislee Shultis was found by police this week in a secret compartment in her grandfather's basement, authorities said. She was reported missing two years ago in upstate New York.

The mother, dad and grandfather of 6-year-old Paislee Shultis have pleaded not guilty to charges filed against them in connection with the discovery this week of the missing child being hidden in a secret compartment under her grandpa's basement stairs, authorities said.

Kimberly Cooper Shultis, Kirk Shultis Jr. and Kirk Shultis Sr. were arrested Monday by Saugerties police in New York after officers found Paislee, who was reported missing two years ago after her parents lost custody, hiding in a "dark and wet enclosure," police said.

Kimberly Shultis, 33, is the girl's mother. She has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.

Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, and Kirk Shultis Sr., 57, are Paislee's father and grandfather. The two men have been charged with felony custodial interference and one misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child. All three appeared in court Wednesday, and have been ordered by a judge to have no contact with the child.

The men were released on their own recognizance, authorities said. The mother was released after posting bond on an outstanding warrant in family court. The details of that family court warrant have not been released. 

Paislee had not been publicly seen or heard from since her disappearance at age 4, according to police. Saugerties officers had visited her grandfather's home several times, but were told each time by her father and grandfather that Paislee was not there and that they hadn't seen her since she was reported missing, police said.

“We’d been at the home almost a dozen times over a two-year period to follow up on leads,” Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra told reporters after the arrests. The dad and grandfather had given police limited access to the home, but would not allow them to search bedrooms or the basement, he said.

“They lied to us for two years, including the father, stating that he had no idea where his daughter was," Sinagra said. After receiving a credible tip, Sinagra said, police obtained a search warrant Monday for the Shultis home.

Police had nearly completed their search when Det. Erik Thiele noticed something strange about stairs leading to the home's basement, the chief said. Thiele shined his flashlight into the steps and saw what appeared to be a blanket, Sinagra said.

“They started ripping the stairs apart and observed two small feet,” he said. Thiele, Sinagra said, is the “hero of the hour.”

Officers found Paislee and her mother hiding in a secret compartment, he said. 

“It’s quite possible they were under the staircase for four, four-and-a-half hours, almost five hours, before they were discovered,” Sinagra said. “She stayed so still and so quiet with cops walking around under that staircase, literally, on top of them, above them.”

The child was initially upset, but brightened after an officer took her to McDonald's for a Happy Meal, the chief said. Paislee was examined and determined to be in good health. She has been returned to her maternal grandmother, who is her guardian, and reunited with her 16-year-old sister, Sinagra said.

The police chief said Paislee had not been schooled or taken to a doctor since her disappearance. She cannot read or write, he said.

Authorities have not disclosed any details about why the parents lost custody of their child. 

The grandfather's attorney, MariAnn Connolly, told Inside Edition Digital on Friday that, "We believe there is much more to this story than is currently being reported.  We ask the public to reserve judgment until all the facts are in. This is a family. They love their children."

Ann Weaver, the attorney for Kirk Shultis Jr., sent the following statement to Inside Edition Digital on Friday: "My client, Paislee’s father, has pled not guilty. He has been fighting for his children for the past 2 and a half years in family court without a final resolution of the case. He has never relinquished custody of his children. It is ludicrous to think he would place his children in harm’s way or endanger their welfare in any manner. The true facts of this case will be forthcoming and they will reveal that Mr. Shultis is a devoted, dedicated and loving father to his children."

The mother's next court appearance is scheduled for March 2. The father and grandfather are next scheduled to appear in court on April 27.

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