The discovery of a missing girl in a secret space under the stairs has shocked a sleepy New York rural town.
Found the eagle-eyed detective Paislee Shultis, 6and her biological mother Kimberly Cooper hiding in the stairs earlier this week after her father told Saugerties police he did not know where his daughter was.
A “ripe and vindicated” tip on February 14 allowed police to obtain a search warrant, which eventually led to Paislee’s rescue.
Cooper and Paislee’s father and grandfather – Kirk Shultis Jr and Kirk Shultis Sr – was later arrested, and Paislee was physically healthy, police said.
The refuge is part of elaborate “secret basement apartment” includes a door leading to a stair crawl space or backyard, said Sheriff Joseph Sinagra.
Their home – at 35 Fawn Street – is on a narrow, two-way street connecting New York State Routes 35 and 32.
There’s a long driveway that leads to a kid’s house and toys along with a large jungle-covered lawn play on the right.
The view is largely blocked by trees, tall bushes and the distance between the houses
“She may have been allowed to go out to play but it could have been at night when no one was looking or could see them,” Sheriff Signara said.
As soon as the news broke, dozens of news agencies swarmed the town and lined up outside their homes.
The story made the front pages of newspapers and made international headlines, something that business owners and neighbors in Saugerties weren’t used to.
“Nothing like this has ever happened here and I’ve been here since 1962,” a local business owner, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Sun on Wednesday.
Covered in debris from his bar’s renovation, the business owner put his hands on his hips and shook his head.
“It was the craziest thing. I still can’t believe it happened on the street. I’m so glad my little girl is okay,” he said.
The quaint Ulster County town is about 68 square miles with rustic bungalows, ranches, a few bars, antique shops, and small businesses.
It has a population of about 20,000, according to the latest census data.
Less than a mile north of where Paislee was found, Vinnie works out of her perennial market, which sells pastries, cider, jams, and other goods.
He says he’s known the Shultis and Cooper family for nearly four decades and calls them “hardworking, blue-collar people.”
He hasn’t met Shultis Jr or Kimberly or seen Paislee before, but “the older generations are good people,” he said.
Shultis’ brother has stopped by the store “once or twice” since 2019, when Paislee was first reported missing, but Vinnie says nothing indicates anything is wrong.
“I don’t know what happened, but hopefully they get some help,” Vinnie said of Shultis Jr and Kimberly. “Maybe they were going through a tough time. Who knows? Everyone makes mistakes.”
About a kilometer in the other direction on 35th Street, the owner of a gas station and shop accompanying him said there was not much traffic.
Some rusty pickups get better gas mileage each day, and one guy bought a local paper with Paislee’s picture on the front while the owner talked to The Sun.
“Sometimes you get a few people coming in to smoke or drink beer at night, but that’s the thing. There’s nothing like it,” he said, pointing to the newspaper.
In between the gas station and Fawn Road, where police found Paislee, a few Saugerties live on old 32nd Street.
Doug, who did not want to give his last name, crossed out the names of a few families who had lived on the street for generations.
He said Cooper and her family may have lived on his street “years ago”, but could not be certain.
“It’s a really quiet neighborhood, and hopefully it stays that way,” Doug said. “This is the biggest news to happen here as long as I remember.”
Besides, a woman who has lived in the area since the 70s, speaks from her screened wooden porch.
She did not want to give her name but said she had seen Cooper in the market a few times but had never seen Paislee before.
“I don’t know her and I’ve never talked to her, but I’ve seen her around town,” she said. “This whole situation is so filthy. There were a lot of people on the street, and no one saw her? Who knew that little girl was missing?”
Neighbors on Fawn Road who opened the door or reached out by phone declined to comment.
According to the sheriff, a 19-year-old woman answered the door where Paislee will likely live from 2019, telling The Sun to leave her “hurt family” alone.
Shultis Sr shook his head when asked for comment in the courtroom, and Shultis Jr’s attorney shielded him from reporters and declined to comment.
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https://www.the-sun.com/news/4710992/paislee-shultis-biggest-crime-in-saugerties/ Neighbors were shocked when Paislee Shultis, 6, had been out of doors for 2 years and police said she may have been playing outside at night