In a remarkable turn of events, a girl whose mother was kidnapped in Illinois has been discovered safe after six years of disappearance. The breakthrough came when a store owner in North Carolina recognized her from a Netflix show.
Kayla Unbehaun was just nine years old when she disappeared without a trace while in the care of her mother, Heather Unbehaun.
The event occurred on July 4, 2017, during a visit from his mother, who had visiting rights but not full custody.
The next day, Kayla’s father, who had full custody, arrived at her mother’s residence in Wheaton, Illinois, to discover that both his daughter and her mother were missing.
A search was launched to locate the kidnapped boy, but the leads grew cold over the years.
However, Kayla’s story remained in the hearts of many, and her case was featured in an episode of the Netflix series “Unsolved Mysteries” titled “Abducted by a Parent.”
The Netflix episode shed light on the heartbreaking situation, garnering the attention of viewers around the world. No one knew that this exposure would lead to a breakthrough in the case.
After nearly six years of disappearance, a chance sighting in North Carolina has led authorities to track down the missing child.
During a seemingly ordinary day, a store owner in North Carolina made an astonishing realization. According to WSOC, a store owner in Asheville noticed Kayla, now 15, at a nearby mall and recognized her from the Netflix show.
The store owner immediately alerted the police, who located and placed Kayla in protective custody. The familiar face she saw in her store looked like the girl from the Netflix show.
Acting quickly, she alerted the authorities, who confirmed the remarkable truth: the girl was indeed Kayla Unbehaun, missing for six long years.
The joyous reunion with Kayla’s father brought tears of relief and marked the end of a long and agonizing search.
The circumstances surrounding her disappearance and the details of her life during those six years are now under investigation as authorities work to unravel the full story.
Last month, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) released an age progression photo of Kayla, showing what she will look like now at 15 years old.
Ms. Unbehaun, Kayla’s mother, was arrested and charged with one count of child abduction by the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office. She is currently on $250,000 bond; she may follow additional charges.
NCMEC, which had been actively sharing alerts to assist in the search for Kayla for the past five years, shared a message from Kayla’s father expressing his delight that his daughter had been found safe.
“I am delighted that Kayla is safe at home. I want to thank the South Elgin Police Department, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and all the law enforcement agencies that helped with her case.” he said. “We ask for privacy as we reconnect and navigate this new beginning.”
Over the years, Kayla’s father, Ryan, continued to raise awareness for his daughter’s case through the “Bring Kayla Home” Facebook page.
On January 6, he posted a birthday message for his missing daughter, expressing his longing for their reunion. He wrote,
“Happy 15th birthday Kayla. I love you and miss you so much. I can’t wait for the day I can see you again, hoping that every day I wake up is the day. It could never come soon enough. I think of you every day, hoping and praying that you are safe and happy and come back to my life soon.”
After an agonizing six-year search, a remarkable turn of events has brought Kayla Unbehaun to safety.
Thanks to the observant North Carolina store owner who recognized her from the Netflix show, Kayla’s whereabouts were finally revealed, leading her to be reunited with her father.
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