Kayla Unbehaun, Missing Since 2017, Found Safe In Asheville

Kayla Unbehaun was abducted from Illinois by her biological mother, Heather Unbehaun, on Independence Day 2017. 6 years later, she was found safe in North Carolina.

Updated on May 16, 2023
Kayla and Heather Unbehaun [Zero Point Zero Production]

Kayla and Heather Unbehaun [Zero Point Zero Production]

Kayla and Heather Unbehaun [Zero Point Zero Production]

By: Michelle Sigona

UPDATE: 05/16/2023

On May 15, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children announced that Kayla Unbehaun, who had been missing since 2017, was found safe in Asheville, North Carolina.

Kayla Unbehaun was nine years old when she vanished on the weekend of July 4, 2017, after she reportedly went on a camping trip with her biological mother, Heather Unbehaun.

In the early evening of May 13, an employee at a store in the Westgate Parkway area contacted police after she spotted Kayla and recognized the missing child from the media.

When police arrived, they confirmed the identity of the child and arrested Heather.

Heather, 40, is being held on a $250,000 bond and is awaiting extradition.

Kayla, who is now 15 years old, can now reunite with her father, Ryan Iskerka, who has never stopped looking for his daughter.

In a statement released on May 15, Iskerka shared that he is "overjoyed that Kayla is home safe" and thanked law enforcement agencies that worked on the case and people who raised awareness about Kayla over the years.

ORIGINAL POST: 01/23/2019

Heather & Kayla Unbehaun Left For A July Fourth Camping Trip & Never Returned

SOUTH ELGIN, IL — Ryan Iskerka isn't giving up hope that he will find his young daughter and be reunited with her again. Investigators say then-9-year-old Kayla Unbehaun vanished on the weekend of July 4, 2017, and hasn't been seen since. It's possible, according to authorities, that she is with her biological mother, 37-year-old Heather Unbehaun.

Iskerka sat down with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to discuss his daughter's case. He revealed that he originally had an informal arrangement with Kayla's mom, Heather, but that the schedule wasn't working.

Eventually the pair went to court over the situation, and a judge had a formal agreement put on the record. The problem persisted, according to Iskerka, because, "She couldn't follow that, she couldn't follow the order we agreed upon in court. She repeatedly had not followed what it said."

Although things were not going as planned, Kayla was with her mother on Independence Day 2017. The next day, Iskerka arrived at the home where Heather and Kayla were supposed to be, but Heather's family told him they went camping in Wisconsin and never returned.

Since then, it's been a complete nightmare for Ryan, his wife, and their family. Although a police alert was issued, it didn't yield any new clues.

Iskerka said, “It was discovered that all of Heather's social media (accounts) had been canceled and her phone turned off. As far as we know, no one has been able to reach her or has talked to her since [July 4, 2017].”

The worried father wants everyone to know: "There's a lot of people who love her, everyone loves her in our family. Everyone wants to see her and spend time with her. I don't want to take her mother away from her. I want her to grow up happy and have a life with everyone who loves her."

There are a couple of important clues in this case. Authorities say Heather has ties to Georgia — especially Atlanta. NCMEC says Heather could also be hiding in the city of Athens. Additionally, Heather has been known to express interest in living “off the grid.”

Heather Unbehaun is facing a charge of felony kidnapping.


Kayla Unbehaun:

  • Age: 11
  • Sex: Female
  • Race: Caucasian
  • Eyes: Blue
  • Hair: Sandy
  • Height: 4 feet 4 inches tall
  • Weight: 60 pounds
  • DOB: January 5, 2008
  • Missing from: South Elgin, IL
  • Missing Since: July 5, 2017

Heather Unbehaun:

  • Age: 37
  • Sex: Female
  • Race: Caucasian
  • Eyes: Blue
  • Hair: Blonde
  • Height: 5 feet 3 inches
  • Weight: 135 pounds
  • DOB: June 15, 1982

If you know anything about this case, please contact our hotline (833-3-PURSUE) or submit a tip online.

For more on this case, watch the “Campus Tragedy” episode of Investigation Discovery's In Pursuit With John Walsh on ID GO now!

Read more: Dayton Daily News, NCMEC

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