Kayla Unbehaun reunited with father after 2017 abduction by mother; mom posts $250K bail, released

Case featured on Netflix's 'Unsolved Mysteries'

ByStephanie Wade and the ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Mother charged in South Elgin girl's 2017 abduction posts bail
Kayle Unbehaun's father Ryan said he is overjoyed and relieved to finally have his daughter back six years after she was abducted by her mother. Heather Unbehaun has posted bail.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The mother of a girl abducted from South Elgin in 2017 has posted bail and was released from custody Tuesday morning.

Heather Unbehaun posted $250,000 bail, and is next due in court July 11 in North Carolina.

Kayla Unbehaun, 15, who was allegedly abducted by her mother, Heather Unbehaun, from South Elgin in 2017, was recently found in North Carolina.

South Elgin police said Kayla Unbehaun was last 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.

Still in shock, her father Ryan said he's overjoyed she's home safe after so many years. He always held onto hope he'd find his daughter again one day.

ABC7 Chicago's sister station in Asheville, North Carolina reported 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 Unbehaun at age 9, as she was when she was abducted, and an age-progression photo of how she may look now.

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 Unbehaun at a shopping center in Asheville and called police.

"First time I've heard about it from our department so yeah I think it's very unusual. And what a great way for a show like that to make a positive impact," said South Elgin Police Chief Jerry Krawczyk.

"We try to keep the engagement of the public, and that's exactly how it transpired in this particular case is that we had excellent citizen engagement, where somebody saw something, recognized her, and then called in a lead," said Leemie Khang-Sofer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Ryan said it is unclear what his daughter has been through. Understandably overwhelmed, he's not yet ready to speak publicly as the two get to know each other once again and navigate this new beginning.