OAN’s Brooke Mallory
3:22 PM – Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Less than a year after her abduction was highlighted on the Netflix series “Unsolved Mysteries,” a 15-year-old Illinois girl who was abducted by her mother six years ago, when she was 9-years-old, was discovered alive in North Carolina on Saturday.
“I’m overjoyed that Kayla is home safe,” said the girl’s father, Ryan Iskerka, in a statement issued by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning.”
The statement was posted on Facebook.
When Kayla Unbehaun vanished in 2017, she had been under the supervision of her mother, Heather Unbehaun, even though she did not have custody. On July 5th of that year, according to Iskerka, he was supposed to pick up Kayla from her mother, but they both went missing-in-action.
The press reported that Heather Unbehaun was supposed to bring Kayla to Iskerka in accordance with a court order. The mother was last seen with her the day before the planned swap, following a 4th of July parade.
According to police, the mother was last seen loading up her car’s roof with her possessions. Family members say that Heather had been planning to go camping in Wisconsin with her daughter. Iskerka alerted the police when the mother and his daughter failed to show up for the handover.
“It was discovered that all of Heather’s social media had been canceled and her phone turned off,” said Iskerka. He maintained that a missing person report was promptly filed on the child’s behalf.
Heather Unbehaun had also missed a court date a few weeks prior.
“Her lawyer had not talked to her for days, was unaware of what happened and was very concerned,” Iskerka said.
Shortly after Unbehaun and Kayla vanished, prosecutors in Kane county, Illinois, obtained an arrest warrant for the mother, according to NBC. The girl’s disappearance was one of several reported family abduction stories covered in an “Unsolved Mysteries” Netflix show that came out in November of last year.
According to the press, a woman in Asheville, North Carolina, had recognized Unbehaun from “published media” last week and swiftly alerted police.
Unbehaun was finally detained by Asheville police on Saturday and she was scheduled to be extradited to Illinois. Press sources claimed that it was unknown if the mother would have any legal representation.
According to NBC, Kayla had been under the care of North Carolina social services and was going to be reunited with her family in Illinois. According to reports, Iskerka described the experience as “really devastating.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children categorizes family abduction cases as situations when children are “taken, wrongfully retained, or concealed by a parent or other family member depriving another individual of their custody or visitation rights.”
Nearly 5% of the 30,000 incidents reported to the center in 2020 involved family abductions. In the same year, family abductions were allegedly implicated in more than 60% of amber alerts. Amber alerts are emergency communications sent to help locate missing people, especially minors.
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