South Elgin girl Kayla Unbehaun abducted by mother in 2017 found in North Carolina

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Kayla Unbehaun found 6 years after abduction thanks to 'Unsolved Mysteries'
Heather Unbehaun is in custody for the abduction of her daughter Kayla in 2017. The case was part of an episode of 'Unsolved Mysteries,' which led to the tip locating them.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Kayla Unbehaun, who was abducted by her mother Heather from South Elgin in 2017, has been found in North Carolina.

South Elgin police said Kayla had last been seen on July 4, 2017. Her father went to pick her up from her mother's house in Wheaton on July 5 but she wasn't there.

At the time, her father had full custody and her mother only had visitation rights.

Our sister station in Asheville, North Carolina reports that police arrested 40-year-old Heather Unbehaun in Asheville over the weekend.

In the years after her disappearance, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children posted an alert online, showing Kayla at age nine, as she was when she was abducted, and an age-progression photo of how she may look now on the right.

The case was also mentioned during an episode of Netflix's "Unsolved Mysteries" series about parental abductions.

And this past weekend, a store owner who had seen that show apparently recognized Kayla at a shopping center in Asheville and called police.

Heather Unbehaun is being held on $250,000 bond and is awaiting extradition. Kayla is now in protective custody.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shared a message from Kayla's father Ryan, saying, "I'm overjoyed that Kayla is home safe. I want to thank @ElginPDFD, 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."

The Kane County State's Attorney had approved one charge of child abduction for Heather Unbehaun when she was located. It was not immediately clear if and what additional charges would be filed.