How was Kayla Unbehaun found? Missing girl found in North Carolina 6 years after abduction

Kayla Unbehaun abducted by her mother  Heather Unbehaun in 2017 (Image via NCMEC/Twitter)
Kayla Unbehaun abducted by her mother Heather Unbehaun in 2017 (Image via NCMEC/Twitter)

Nine-year-old Kayla Unbehaun was allegedly abducted by her non-custodial mother Heather Unbehaun from northern Illinois in 2017. Shortly after the abduction, the Kane County State's Attorney's Office issued a kidnapping warrant for Heather. She was accused of violating the custody agreement she had with her former partner, Ryan Iskerka, who had primary custody of their daughter Kayla Unbehaun. Kayla's disappearance drew national attention and was featured on an episode of Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries in November 2022.

Nearly six years after the abduction, now-15-year-old Kayla Unbehaun was found safe on Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Asheville, North Carolina. She was found after an unidentified woman from Plato's Closet recognized her mother, Heather, from media reports and called law enforcement.

As per CBS News, 40-year-old Heather was reportedly taken into custody and expected to be extradited to northern Illinois.

Details of Kayla Unbehaun’s abduction explored

Multiple reports stated that on July 5, 2017, Kayla Unbehaun’s father, Ryan Iskerka, reportedly went to pick his daughter up from her mother’s place. According to the custody agreement, Kayla's mother had her over every other weekend. Upon arrival, Iskerka found that Heather had left with their daughter the day before.

As per CBS, at the time of his daughter’s abduction, Iskerka said that Heather had her over on the weekend of the Fourth of July which fell on a Tuesday. Iskerka reportedly asked Heather to keep Kayla for another two days (Monday and Tuesday) as she had a holiday. He said:

"Her arrangement was to have every other weekend with my daughter. She had her that weekend before the Fourth of July and the Fourth of July, I think, fell on a Tuesday. And that was also her holiday, so I just told her, "Why don't we take an extended, you know, keep her Monday through Tuesday, and I'll just pick her up Wednesday?”

However, when Iskerka arrived on July 5 to pick his daughter up, he was reportedly told by Unbehaun's family that neither of them was back from a camping trip.

As per NBC Chicago, shortly after being found, Kayla Unbehaun was placed into the custody of the North Carolina Division of Social Services. She is expected to be reunited with her family in Illinois.

Kayla's father, Ryan Iskerka, seemingly delighted to be reunited with his daughter, issued a statement through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, saying:

"I'm overjoyed that Kayla is home safe. 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."

As per ABC 7 Chicago, Heather Unbehaun was being held on a $250,000 bond and charged with one count of child abduction.

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Edited by Anushree Madappa
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