Missing girl recognized from Netflix show, located six years after abduction

Years after going missing under her mother's care, Kayla Unbehaun was found hundreds of miles from home

 Missing child Kayla Unbehaun (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Missing child Kayla Unbehaun
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)

A young girl who went missing in Illinois several years ago was found alive last month in North Carolina after being recognized from Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries show.

Kayla Unbehaun went missing at the age of nine in July 2017 and was recognized in a North Carolina convenience store after her case was covered on a Netflix true-crime show.

After the young girl's case was covered on a recent episode of Unsolved Mysteries entitled Abducted by a Parent, Unbehaun was recognized by a convenience store owner in North Carolina.

Unbehaun had gone missing six years ago while visiting her mother, Heather Unbehaun. Ms. Unbehaun did not have full custody of her daughter but did have limited visitation rights. After the July 4th visit, Kayla disappeared without a trace.

Kayla's father, who had full custodial rights over her went to pick her up from the visit and found them both missing.

Cold case warms up after media coverage

A convenience store in Jerusalem that is open on Shabbat (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)A convenience store in Jerusalem that is open on Shabbat (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Though a full-scale investigation was launched into the suspected abduction back in 2017, the case ultimately went cold. 

In April 2023, after the case had been spotlighted on Unsolved Mysteries the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) released a photo of how the now-15-year-old would look after years of age progression.

Soon afterward, hundreds of miles from where she had first gone missing, Kayla was located in a North Carolina grocery store. 

Unsolved Mysteries had been on network television for two decades prior to its cancelation in 2002. It was revived in 2008 and Netflix took the show under its wing in 2020. Kayla's case was not the first family abduction on the show.

Kayla's case, in fact, was not even the main focus of the episode - rather, just part of a small roll of photos showing age progression of many missing children through the years. 

Her mother, Heather Unbehaun, 40, was arrested in Asheville, North Carolina over the weekend and is next expected in court on July 11th, ABC News reported. 

"The media is so important when it comes to the recovery of missing children," Callahan Walsh of the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children told ABC News. "Even in these long-term cases, the more we tell the story of these missing children and put their images out to the public, the more likely that they're going to be recovered."