Missing girl featured on ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ found safe

Posted at 7:32 AM, May 17, 2023 and last updated 7:32 AM, May 17, 2023

By Alex Arger

(Scripps News) — Kayla Unbehaun was 9 years old when she was reportedly kidnapped by her mother in Illinois. Six years later — and after being featured on Netflix’s “Unsolved Mysteries” — the girl has been found alive and safe in North Carolina.

Kayla Unbehaun missing person photo

This undated photo provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shows Kayla Unbehaun. (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)

On May 13, the now 15-year-old was shopping with her mother, Heather Unbehaun, at a Plato’s Closet in Asheville when a store employee recognized them and called police. Heather was arrested but has since been released after posting $250,000 bond, according to WLOS-TV.

Police said Kayla Unbehaun has now been reunited with her father in Illinois and is in good condition.

“I’m overjoyed that Kayla is home safe,” her father, Ryan Iserka, said in a statement to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “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. 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.”

At the time of Kayla’s disappearance, Iserka had full custody, while her mother had weekly visitation rights.

On July 5, 2017, Iserka went to pick Kayla up from her mother’s house in Wheaton, Illinois, after a court-ordered visit, but neither were there. A GoFundMe notes Heather was last seen packing up her car, and her phone and social media had been deactivated at the time of the disappearance.

Heather Unbehaun mugshot

This booking photo provided by the South Elgin Police Department shows Heather Unbehaun. (South Elgin PD)

A felony warrant for kidnapping had been issued for Heather on July 29, 2017. Since Kayla’s disappearance, her case has been the subject of multiple news and media reports.

In 2020, NCMEC posted an age-progression photo to help the public recognize her, and her father has spoken to multiple media outlets about the story. A photo of Kayla and her mother were also shown at the end of a 2022 episode of Netflix’s “Unsolved Mysteries” that focused on family abductions.

Heather Unbehaun will appear in court on July 11 in North Carolina. She is expected to be extradited to Illinois.

This story was originally published by Scripps News, an E.W. Scripps Company.