A 9-year-old girl from Illinois, Kayla Unbehaun, was tragically abducted by her noncustodial mother, Heather Unbehaun, in July 2017. The pair went missing for three years until a miraculous reunion and an arrest by authorities on May 13, 2021.
The reunion came to life when an employee of Plato’s Closet in Asheville, North Carolina, recognized the mother-daughter duo from “well-publicized media” and contacted the police. Though the exact source of media is unknown, the kidnapping has been featured in Netflix’s “Unsolved Mysteries” episode dedicated to parental abduction last year, which could have provided the initial clues for the employee.
Authorities arrested 40-year-old Heather with a $225,000 bond and are now in the process of extraditing her to Illinois, where she will face a charge of child abduction from the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Meanwhile, Kayla, now 15 years old, will be in the full care of the North Carolina Department of Social Services. Kayla’s father, Ryan Iskerka, is justifiably overjoyed at her safe return and deeply appreciates the South Elgin Police Department, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and all of the law enforcement agencies who have assisted with her case. Ryan also thanked the “Bring Kayla Home” Facebook page followers for helping keep her story alive and spreading awareness of the case.
The story of Kayla Unbehaun’s abduction and the groups that worked together to bring her home emphasizes the power of media and awareness in locating missing persons. It also serves as a reminder of the need for parental supervision to prevent abduction and exploitation. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children provides such resources for parents to help keep their children safe during such times.