(NEW YORK) — A young girl missing since July 2019 was found alive Monday, police said, in a “small, cold, and wet” room under a staircase in a house three hours from where she went missing.
Paislee Shultis was located in a home in the town of Saugerties, in the Hudson River Valley, after a police search on Monday, authorities said.
Paislee, who was 4 years old when she went missing, was found in good health, Saugerties police said. She is now back in the custody of her legal guardian and reunited with her older sister, police added.
Her noncustodial parents, Kimberly Cooper, 33, and Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, have been charged with custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.
Shultis was reported missing July 13, 2019, from Cayuga Heights, in the state’s Finger Lakes region, several hours west of Saugerties.
On Monday, after receiving a tip that the child might be held at a hidden location in Saugerties, police obtained a search warrant for the home.
When police entered the home, the homeowner, Kirk Shultis’ father, denied seeing the girl since she went missing in 2019. A little over an hour into their search, police noticed the basement staircase was strangely built and were able to shine a flashlight through a crack in the boards. When they were removed, police located the child and Cooper inside a small makeshift room, according to a press release.
Kirk Shultis Sr., 57, was also charged with first-degree custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child.
Both father and son were arraigned and released on their own recognizance with orders to stay away from the child. Cooper, who also had an outstanding warrant in Ulster County, was arraigned and remains in Ulster County Jail.
The house where Paislee was located had been searched several times, Saugerties police said, with the owner always denying knowledge of the location of the child. Kirk Shultis Jr. allegedly told police he hadn’t seen the girl since 2019 and that Cooper had fled to Pennsylvania with the girl. Police now believe she had been hidden in the staircase each time the home was previously searched.
Saugerties police said the investigation was ongoing and additional arrests were pending.
ABC News’ Josh Hoyos contributed to this report.
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