Kayla Unbehaun: Illinois girl who disappeared 6 years ago with her mother is found in North Carolina
For six years, loved ones — with the public’s help — searched for Kayla Unbehaun after she was allegedly abducted by her non-custodial mother in Illinois.
Now 15 years old, she has been found safe — over 600 miles away in North Carolina — and is now reunited with her father in Illinois, the Asheville Police Department’s Samantha Booth told CNN Tuesday.
Kayla was 9 when she was abducted by her noncustodial mother, Heather Unbehaun, from the Chicago suburb of South Elgin, Illinois, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said.
Kayla’s father, Ryan Iserka, had been granted full custody of her in early 2017, with Unbehaun allowed supervised visits, he told CNN affiliate WBBM. But when Iserka went to pick up his daughter on July 5, he learned the couple never returned from a camping trip, WBBM reported the following year.
A felony kidnapping warrant was issued for Unbehaun on July 28, 2017, according to the non-profit center, which helps families look for American children who are taken by relatives or strangers or run away. Nearly 360,000 missing child reports were filed with the FBI in 2022, it said, noting that duplicates are possible.
Then on Saturday night, Kayla was spotted at a store in Asheville by someone who recognized her from an episode of Netflix’s “Unsolved Mysteries” series about parental abductions, Booth told CNN. That person notified a store employee, who then called police, Booth said.
Unbehaun was arrested Saturday and was being held on $250,000 bond pending extradition, Buncombe County, North Carolina, Deputy Cory Alexander told CNN on Tuesday. Specific charges were not listed, and she has been given a court date of July 11, Alexander said.
She finished Tuesday morning and was released, Booth said.
In the meantime, Iserka is overjoyed that his daughter is home safe, he said in a statement through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, thanking the organization and law enforcement for spreading the word about the search for her.
“I also want to thank all the followers of the ‘Bring Kayla Home’ Facebook page who helped keep her story alive and were instrumental in spreading awareness,” he said. “We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning.”