Neighbors in shock as Paislee Shultis, 6, has been hiding doors for 2 years and cops say she may have played outside at night

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THE discovery of a missing girl in a secret crawl space under a staircase has shocked an otherwise sleepy rural New York town.

Eagle-eyed detectives found 6-year-old Paislee Shultis and her birth mother Kimberly Cooper hiding on the stairs earlier this week after her father told Saugerties police he had no whereabouts her daughter.

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The house, where six-year-old Paislee Shultis was found by police in a makeshift room under a staircase in Saugerties, New YorkCredit: Stephen Yang for The US Sun
The jungle-gym playset was on the right side of the property, which was largely sheltered by shrubs and trees

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The jungle-gym playset was on the right side of the property, which was largely sheltered by shrubs and treesCredit: Stephen Yang for The US Sun
Paislee, who has been missing since 2019, reunited with her sister with their legal guardian

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Paislee, who has been missing since 2019, reunited with her sister with their legal guardianCredit: The Mega Agency

A “ripe and substantiated” tip on February 14 helped police obtain a search warrant, which ultimately led to Paislee’s rescue.

Cooper and Paislee’s father and grandfather – Kirk Shultis Jr and Kirk Shultis Sr – were later arrested, and Paislee is in good physical health, police said.

The hideout was part of an elaborate “secret basement apartment” that included a door leading to the staircase crawlspace or backyard, Chief Joseph Sinagra said.

Their home—at 35 Fawn Road—is on a narrow, two-way street that connects New York State Routes 35 and 32.

There is a long driveway leading to the house, and a child’s toys and a large jungle-gym type playset covered the grass on the right side.

The view was largely shielded by trees, tall shrubs and the distance between houses

“She might have been allowed to play outside, but probably at night when no one was watching or could see them,” Chief Signara said.

Shortly after the news broke, dozens of media circled the city and lined up outside their home.

The story was plastered on the front pages of newspapers and made international headlines, something business owners and neighbors in Saugerties are not 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 renovations in his bar, the business owner put his hands on his hips and shook his head.

“It’s the craziest thing. I still can’t believe it happened just down the street. I’m glad that little girl is okay,” he said.

The quaint county town of Ulster is about 68 square miles of rustic wooden houses, farmhouses, a few bars, antique shops and small businesses.

It has a population of around 20,000, according to the latest census data.

‘GOOD PEOPLE’

Just under a mile north of where Paislee was found, Vinnie was working outside his longtime market, where he sells pastries, ciders, jams, among other goods.

He said he’s known the Shultis and Cooper families for nearly four decades and called them “hard-working, blue-collar people.”

He’s never met Shultis Jr or Kimberly or seen Paislee before, but “the older generations are good people,” he said.

Shultis’ older brother has stopped by the store “once or twice” since 2019, when Paislee was first reported missing, but Vinnie said there was nothing to suggest anything was wrong.

“I don’t know what happened, but I hope they get some help,” Vinnie said of Shultis Jr and Kimberly. “Maybe they were going through a tough time. Who knows? Everyone makes mistakes.”

” CALM NEIGHBORHOOD “

About a mile in the other direction on Route 35, a gas station owner and accompanying store said there wasn’t much traffic.

A few rusty vans that had seen better days filled up with gas, and a guy bought a local paper with Paislee’s picture on the front while the owner spoke to The Sun.

“Sometimes you get a few people who come in for a smoke or a beer in the evening, but that’s about it. Nothing like that,” he said, pointing to the newspaper.

Between the gas station and Fawn Road, where police found Paislee, a few Saugerties lifers live on the old Route 32.

Doug, who wouldn’t give his last name, rattled off a few names of families who’ve lived on the streets for generations.

He said Cooper and his family may have lived on his street “years ago,” but couldn’t be sure.

“It’s a really quiet neighborhood, and I hope it stays that way,” Doug said. “This is the biggest news that has happened here as far as I can remember.”

‘OF FISH’

Next door, a woman, who has lived in the area since the 70s, spoke from her screened wooden porch.

She wouldn’t give her name but said she had seen Cooper several times at the market but had never seen Paislee before.

“I don’t know her and I’ve never spoken to her, but I saw her around town,” she said. “This whole situation is suspicious. There are a lot of people on this street, and no one has seen her? Did anyone know that this little girl was missing?”

Fawn Road neighbors who answered the door or were reached by phone declined to comment.

A 19-year-old woman who answered the door where Paislee has likely been living since 2019, according to the chief, told The Sun to leave her “traumatized family” alone.

Shultis Sr shook his head when asked for a comment in the courtroom, and Shultis Jr’s lawyer shielded him from reporters and declined to comment.

Cooper’s attorney urged people to wait until all the facts are known and to “ignore sensational Facebook posts and media.”

This was the hidden crawl space inside the basement stairs where police found Paislee and Cooper hiding

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This was the hidden crawl space inside the basement stairs where police found Paislee and Cooper hidingCredit: The Mega Agency
Kirk Shultis Sr (middle) and Kirk Shultis Jr (right) go to court on Wednesday with their lawyer

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Kirk Shultis Sr (middle) and Kirk Shultis Jr (right) go to court on Wednesday with their lawyerCredit: Stephen Yang for The US Sun

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