The mystery behind Kayla Unbehaun's disappearance has been solved.
Nearly six years after she was allegedly abducted by her mother Heather Unbehaun, the Illinois native, now 15, was found hundreds of miles away from her hometown. On May 13, a shop owner in Asheville, N.C., contacted authorities after recognizing the missing girl and Heather, according to the South Elgin Police Department in Illinois, who had been handling the case.
Kayla was placed in protective custody and Heather, 40, was arrested after investigators confirmed the duo's identities, police said.
"We are overjoyed to report that the girl is in good condition and good spirit since being reunited with her family," South Elgin Police said in a statement on May 16. In addition to thanking other law enforcement agencies, the department recognized "all the citizens across the united States who provided tips to us" on the case, which was included in a November 2022 episode of the Netflix series Unsolved Mysteries.
Kayla was first reported missing on July 5, 2017, when the then-9-year-old and her mom did not show up to a court-ordered custody exchange in Wheaton, Ill., according to her father Ryan Iskerka.
A nationwide extraditable arrest warrant on a child abduction charge was issued for Heather on July 28, 2017, after Kayla was entered into the national missing persons database, per police.
The woman who reported Kayla's sighting—which took place at a Plato's Closet on May 13—told investigators that she had recognized Heather from "published media," Asheville Police spokesperson Samantha Booth told NBC Chicago.
In a statement released through National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Ryan said he was "overjoyed" by his daughter's return.
"I want to thank the South Elgin Police Department, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and all of the law enforcement agencies who assisted with her case," he continued. "I also want to thank all of the followers on the 'Bring Kayla Home' Facebook page, who helped keep her story alive and were instrumental in spreading awareness. We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning."
Heather has been released from the Buncombe County Detention Facility in North Carolina after posting bond, according to police. She is expected to appear in Buncombe County court on July 11, per CNN.
It's unclear if Heather has obtained legal representation who can speak on her behalf.
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