Paislee Shultis, a young girl kidnapped two years ago at the age of four, has been found alive in her home state of New York.
According to NBC New York, she was found in a makeshift room underneath a closed staircase that led to the basement of a home in the town of Saugerties in upstate New York.
Paislee went missing from her home in Cayuga Heights, near Ithaca, on July 13, 2019.
Police have long suspected her biological, non-custodial parents, Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr., of kidnapping the girl, but previous searches of their home in Saugerties came up empty.
However, police got a Valentine’s Day tip that the girl was in the home, which prompted them to return with a warrant.
Saugerties police Chief Joseph Sinagra told reporters one of the officers searching the home noticed something odd about the basement steps that made him take a closer look.
“He took a flashlight and looked between the cracks between the steps. He saw what he thought was a blanket, and at that point they used a halligan tool, a forcible entry tool, and they started ripping the steps off the staircase itself. At one point they saw little feet, as he put it,” Sinagra said.
Inside, they found Paislee with her biological mother.
USA Today reports that the makeshift room where Paislee was found was “small, cold, and wet.”
Paislee was taken to hospital, where doctors deemed her to be in good health before releasing her to be reunited with her legal guardian and older sister.
Both Cooper and Kirk Shultis Jr., along with his father Kirk Shultis Sr., now face charges in the case.
Cooper, 33, was charged with custodial interference and endangering the welfare of a child, while Kirk Shultis Jr., 32, and Kirk Shultis Sr., 57, were charged with felony custodial interference and misdemeanour child endangerment.
Neighbours told CBS they had no idea the little girl had been in the house all along.
“I’m just shocked, because they seemed like regular people,” Annette Wrolsen told the news outlet.