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Illinois Girl Missing Almost 6 Years, Featured on ‘Unsolved Mysteries,’ Found Safe in North Carolina

illinois girl missing unsolved mysteries found safe north carolina
Source: Asheville Police Department; National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

May 16 2023, Published 2:38 p.m. ET

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A girl who had been missing from Illinois since 2017, and whose case garnered widespread attention through her feature on the Netflix Unsolved Mysteries reboot, has finally been found in North Carolina, according to authorities.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) announced that Kayla Unbehaun, who was 9 years old when she allegedly was abducted by her non-custodial mother, Heather Unbehaun, from South Elgin, Illinois on July 5, 2017.

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Around 7:30 p.m. on May 13, the girl was spotted at a business in Asheville, WCIV reported.

One of the store’s employees recognized the missing child from a “well-publicized media” and called police.

After further investigation, deputies determined this was the missing child, Kayla. The suspected abductor, Heather Unbehaun, 40, was arrested and booked into the Buncombe County jail, officials said.

Kayla was turned over to the North Carolina Department of Social Services, who contacted Illinois authorities, WCIV reported.

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In a statement, Kayla’s father, Ryan, said, "I’m overjoyed that Kayla is home safe. I want to thank [the City of Elgin, Illinois Police and Fire Departments], the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and all of the law enforcement agencies who assisted with her case. We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning."

Heather is being held on a $250,000 bond and is waiting for extradition to Illinois, authorities said.

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