After Girl Missing 2 Years Was Rescued, a Happy Meal

Paislee Shultis was reported missing in July 2019
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2022 4:13 PM CST
Updated Feb 17, 2022 1:00 AM CST
Girl Missing Since 2019 Found Hidden Under Stairs
This photo provided by the Saugerties, NY, Police Department, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, shows where young girl, reported missing in 2019, was found hidden under a staircase by officers searching a home in New York's Hudson Valley, police said Tuesday.   (Saugerties Police Department via AP)

Update: After the dramatic rescue of Paislee Shultis, police were driving the 6-year-old to the police station when they passed a McDonald's. The girl, who had been scared when she was initially found hiding with her mother, mentioned she hadn't eaten there in a long time, so detectives turned around and picked up a Happy Meal for her. "And she was fine after that," the police chief says, per CNN. Per News 12, she was then brought to her grandmother and her teenage sister, whom her grandmother also has custody of; the police chief says the girl was "joyful" at the reunion. It's not clear why their parents lost custody, but Paislee's father was arrested in 2019 shortly before they lost custody. CBS New York reports that while the girl was not schooled and can't read or write, she was in good health and there is no evidence of physical or sexual abuse. Our original story from Tuesday follows:

After a tip and some extensive searching, a girl who vanished more than two years ago at age 4 was recovered in New York. NBC News reports Paislee Shultis was reported missing in July 2019 from her home in Cayuga Heights. She was located about 160 miles away in Saugerties on Monday night. While searching a home there, Detective Erik Thiele says he noted an oddity with the staircase that led to the basement. He shone a light between the steps and says he saw a blanket. From there, he "used a ... tool to remove several of the wooden steps, and that is when detectives saw a pair of tiny feet," per a Tuesday statement from the Saugerties Police Department.

"After removing several more steps, the child and her abductor were discovered within," it continued. "The space was small, cold, and wet." At the time of her disappearance, investigators believed the girl had been abducted by non-custodial parents Kimberly Cooper and Kirk Shultis, Jr., who are believed to have fled with her when they lost custody. Both were arrested and charged in connection with the case along with Kirk Shultis, Sr. Paislee was in the crawl space with her mother, possibly for as many as five hours before police discovered them, NBC News reports.

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Police say they had been to the home about a dozen times previously looking for Paislee, who is now 6. "During some of the follow ups to the Fawn Road location, authorities were permitted limited access into the residence to look around for the child, by both Kirk Shultis Sr. and Jr. ... knowing the child and her abductor were hidden within the house and would not be found," police said. CBS Albany reports Shultis, Jr., the girl's biological father, allegedly told police on prior occasions that Paislee's mother had gone to Pennsylvania and he had not seen the child. Paislee was found to be in good health and has been returned to her legal guardian and older sister. (More missing child stories.)

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