For six years, relatives of Kayla Unbehoun searched for her with the public’s help after she was allegedly abducted in Illinois by a mother who did not have custody of the child.
Now 15, she was found safe more than 900 miles away in North Carolina and reunited with her father in Illinois, Samantha Booth of the Asheville Police Department told CNN Tuesday.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Kayla was 9 years old when her mother, Heather Unbehoun, allegedly abducted her in South Elgin, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.
Kayla’s father, Ryan Iserka, was granted full custody of the girl in early 2017 and Unbehoun is allowed supervised visits, Iserka told CNN affiliate WBBM. But when he went to pick up his daughter on July 5, he learned that neither of them had returned from the camping trip, WBBM reported the following year.
A felony kidnapping warrant was issued for Unbehoun on July 28, 2017, according to the nonprofit Center, which helps families search for American children who have been abducted by relatives or strangers, or who are running The FBI is expected to receive about 360,000 missing child reports in 2022, according to the center, which notes that there may be duplicates.
Then last Saturday night, someone spotted Kayla at a store in Asheville. Booth told CNN that the man recognized her from an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries,” the Netflix series about parental kidnapping. Booth said the man informed a store clerk, who then called police.
Anbehoun was taken into custody Saturday and held on $250,000 bail pending extradition, Buncombe County, North Carolina’s assistant clerk Cory Alexander told CNN on Tuesday. Alexander said specific charges were not mentioned, and he is scheduled to appear in court on July 11.
According to Booth, he was released on bail this Tuesday morning.
In the meantime, Isrka is overjoyed that her daughter is safe home, she said in a statement through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, thanking the organization and law enforcement for spreading the word about her daughter’s disappearance.
“I also want to thank all the supporters of the ‘Bring Kayla Home’ Facebook page who have helped keep her story alive and have been instrumental in spreading the message,” she added. “We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning.”