Girl kidnapped at 9 years old, safe again 6 years later, mother files charges

SOUTH ELGIN, Ill. (WGN) – An Illinois girl who was kidnapped at the age of 9 was found safe in North Carolina six years later National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Kayla Unbehaun at the age of 9. (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

The North Carolina Police Department in Asheville said Tuesday that officers responded to a business in Asheville on Saturday after receiving “from well-publicized media” a report by an employee who identified Kayla Unbehaun as the missing child.

Kayla was allegedly taken by her mother, Heather Unbehaun, on July 5, 2017 while on a camping trip in South Elgin, Illinois. After leaving on the trip with their daughter, the two disappeared out of sight.

Ryan Iserka, Kayla’s father, was scheduled to pick up his daughter from her mother’s home in Wheaton, Illinois, but no one showed up. Unbehaun did not have custody of Kayla.

Accordingly previous coverage by WGNThe NCMEC said in a press release that Unbehaun indicated prior to her disappearance that she wanted to live off the grid and lead a “more carefree” lifestyle. For a time, the police thought they brought Kayla to Georgia.

A year after Kayla’s disappearance, her father appealed to the public for help, saying he wanted his daughter home so “she could grow up and have a life with everyone who loves her.”

Heather Unbehaun, 40 (Buncombe County, North Caroling Sheriff’s Department)

Unbehaun, 40, was arrested after Kayla was found and reunited with her father in Buncombe County, North Carolina on Saturday. Unbehaun is charged with child abduction from Kane County, Illinois and is scheduled for extradition to the state.

Police said she was holding $250,000 bail on a fugitive warrant.

Iserka made the following statement through the NCMEC:

“I’m over the moon that Kayla is safe at home. i want to thank @ElginPDFD, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and all law enforcement agencies who have assisted in their case. We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning.”

Kayla’s story has already been featured in social media by NCMEC.

She is now 15.

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