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Illinois girl whose disappearance was on Netflix's 'Unsolved Mysteries' is found alive in North Carolina

Heather Unbehaun was released on bond Tuesday after she was arrested on a fugitive charge. She's accused of abducting her daughter, Kayla Unbehaun, in July 2017.
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An Illinois girl whose disappearance was featured on Netflix's "Unsolved Mysteries" was found alive in North Carolina last week, six years after she was allegedly abducted by her mother.

Kayla Unbehaun.
Kayla Unbehaun.National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Kayla Unbehaun, who turned 15 in January, was 9 years old when she went missing in 2017 while in the care of her mother, Heather Unbehaun.

Unbehaun, 40, was arrested Saturday in Asheville, North Carolina, on a fugitive charge, an arrest report states. She was released on bond Tuesday, a court clerk said. Her next court date is scheduled for July 11.

A police spokesman said a woman at Plato's Closet in Asheville recognized Unbehaun from "published media" about the case and contacted the authorities, according to NBC Chicago. An employee who answered the phone at the store Tuesday declined a request for comment.

"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," Kayla’s father, Ryan Iskerka, said in a statement Monday through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. 

"We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning," he said.

Kayla disappeared around July 4, 2017. She had last been seen in her mother's care following a Fourth of July parade in Wheaton, Illinois, according to a GoFundMe page Iskerka created days after Kayla’s disappearance. The NCMEC said Unbehaun was the noncustodial parent.

Iskerka said he was supposed to meet Unbehaun on July 5, 2017, to pick up his daughter, but the pair never arrived. The exchange was court-ordered, Iskerka wrote.

Heather Unbehaum.
Heather Unbehaun.National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

According to police interviews, Unbehaun was last seen packing her belongings on the roof of her car. Family members indicated that she went on a camping trip to an unknown location in Wisconsin and was expected to return for the meetup with Iskerka, he wrote on the GoFundMe page.

When the mother and daughter failed to show, the police were contacted and a missing person’s report was filed for Kayla, according to the GoFundMe page.

Unbehaun's attorney declined to comment on the case. She and her family could not be reached at phone numbers listed for them.

The disappearance was one of several cases involving alleged family abduction featured on an episode of the Netflix series “Unsolved Mysteries” in November 2022.

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s office issued a kidnapping warrant for Unbehaun, NBC Chicago reported.

Kayla was placed into the custody of the North Carolina Division of Social Services, according to the news station. She is expected to be reunited with her family and brought back to Illinois.

Iskerka said Tuesday that he was not ready to discuss the situation and that it has been "really devastating" to his family and daughter.

CORRECTION (May 17, 2023, 3 p.m. ET): A photo caption on a previous version of this article misspelled the last name of the mother accused of kidnapping her daughter in 2017. She is Heather Unbehaun, not Unbehaum. The article also misstated the day Unbehaun was released on bond. It was Tuesday, not Monday.