A woman who was held in the Buncombe County Detention Facility on suspicion of kidnapping her daughter and evading authorities for nearly six years has been let out.
Heather Unbehaun, 40, who will be extradited from Illinois on a charge of kidnapping a child, posted a $250,000 bond on Tuesday morning. On Saturday, May 13, Unbehaun was apprehended on Asheville’s Westgate Parkway.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that on July 5, 2017, Kayla Unbehaun was taken by her non-custodial mother from South Elgin, Illinois.
South Elgin Police Chief Jerry Krawczyk told News 13’s Chicago-affiliated partner WLS-TV that he was “super happy.” “I spoke with detectives and U.S. Marshals even last week as we worked on this case.”
According to WLS-TV, Ryan Unbehaun, Kayla’s father, had sole custody while Heather Unbehaun had visitation privileges.
“Oftentimes, we’ve come to find that when a non-custodial parent does abduct their child, it’s not always out of love for that child,” NCMEC Child Advocate Callahan Walsh said. “It’s oftentimes out of spite for the other parent. It’s also not a great lifestyle for any child to live on, the runaway from, you know, on the run from law enforcement.”
On Twitter, NCMEC revealed that Kayla had been located.
BREAKING NEWS ‼️
NCMEC is excited to share that Kayla Unbehaun has been FOUND SAFE in North Carolina!
Kayla was only 9 years old when she was abducted by her non-custodial mother, Heather Unbehaun from South Elgin, Illinois on July 5, 2017. Kayla’s dad, Ryan asked NCMEC to… pic.twitter.com/5O7bpEjIhT
— National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (@MissingKids) May 16, 2023
Her dad stated to NCMEC:
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.”
As a result of being broadcast on the Netflix series “Unsolved Mysteries,” Kayla’s story received widespread exposure. According to Asheville police, a local viewer recognized the mother and daughter from the program.
“I don’t know that we can quantify the value of that initial caller, that was tremendous that that person was able to make that identification or suspected identification at that time,” Asheville Police Department LT. Jonathan Brown said.
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According to the Asheville Police Department, the girl was seen on Saturday just before 7:30 p.m. near Plato’s Closet. The missing toddler was recognized by a store clerk from “well-publicized media” and the authorities were contacted.
“What’s most unusual is the ability to stay off the grid, if you will, for that period of time. Typically, we leave a technological bread crumb and those are usually very easy and quick to be tracked down. This was not,” Brown said.
“To see this child finally recover, reunited with her father after this many years, it’s incredible,” Walsh said.
The first hearing for Heather Unbehaun will take place in Buncombe County on July 11, 2023.
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