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16th May 2023

Missing girl found alive and well after almost six years

Charlie Herbert

A shopkeeper recognised her from a Netflix documentary

A young girl who was abducted by her mother and missing for almost six years has been found alive and well.

Kayla Unbehaun was nine-years-old when she was abducted by her mother Heather Unbehaun on July 4, 2017, according to South Elgin police.

Her father Ryan had come to pick her up from Heather’s house on July 5, but called police when she wasn’t there.

At the time of her disappearance, Ryan had full custody of Kayla, with her mother only having visitation rights.

In the years after her disappearance, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) posted public alerts online showing pictures of the missing nine-year-old, as well as age-progression edits to suggest what she might look like now and details on the date she disappeared.

Her disappearance even became the focus of an episode of Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries – a docu-series about parental abductions and other disappearances.

But no progress was made in locating the missing girl – until this past weekend, when a shopkeeper who had learned about Kayla’s story through the Netflix docu-series, spotted the young girl at a shopping centre in Asheville, North Carolina and phoned police.

Shortly after, Heather was arrested and Kayla, who is now a teenager, was put in protective custody.

Heather is being held on a $250,000 bond while she awaits extradition.

The Kate County State’s Attorney has already approved one charge of child abduction for Heather Unbehaun, though it is not yet clear whether or not additional charges will be filed.

Lt. Diana Loveland of Asheville, North Carolina Police Department, told ABC : ‘It is unusual but it’s good that when someone does suspect that they recognise someone, no matter how old the story might be, that they are not afraid to give us a call so we can come and investigate.’

Announcing the news of Kayla’s discovery online, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children said they were “excited to share that Kayla Unbehaun has been FOUND SAFE in North Carolina!”

Kayla’s dad Ryan also asked NCMEC to share this statement on his behalf, which read: “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.”

Related links:

Drake Bell’s wife files for divorce one week after missing person scare

Kid who saved school bus after driver passed out was only one not distracted by his phone

Warning to parents as man ‘tries to kidnap boy from primary school’