According to The Times, a North Carolina shopkeeper identified the girl on Netflix’s documentary series “Unsolved Mysteries,” who disappeared six years ago. Astonishingly, she was found alive!
Kayla’s mother, Heather Unbehaun, was alleged to have kidnapped her. In 2017, when she was nine years old, she disappeared while in the care of her mother, who was exercising visitation rights.
When Kayla’s father, Ryan Escirka, who lived in South Elgin and had full custody, went to pick up the little girl from her mother’s house about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away in Wheaton, Illinois, he found both of them missing.
But last week, Kayla, who turned 15 in January, was discovered by an anonymous shopkeeper in Asheville, more than 600 miles away.
Heather Unbehaun, 40, was arrested in Asheville on Saturday 13 May. She posted $250,000 bond and is then scheduled to appear in court on July 11, in North Carolina, according to ABC News. Court documents, seen by WSOC, describe the alleged crime as kidnapping and deportation.
“I’m thrilled that Kayla is now safe in her home,” Ryan Escirka said in a statement from the nonprofit National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Last month, the center released an image to show what Kayla might look like at the age of 15.
Lemmy Kang-Sofer, director of the center, said: “We always try to engage the public, and that’s exactly what happened in this particular case, which is that we got excellent participation from citizens, someone saw something, recognized it, and then contacted it.”
The Unsolved Mysteries documentary series covered several cases involving alleged family kidnappings, alongside the original series’ work covering supernatural mysteries.
The series was on network television for two decades before it was canceled in 2002, then revived in 2008 and then again in 2020 by Netflix.
“What a wonderful positive impact this program has had,” said Jerry Krawzyk, Chief Constable of South Elgin Village.