The Illinois man who was reunited with his daughter six years after she was allegedly kidnapped by her mother, a case featured on the Netflix series «Unsolved Mysteries,» is still trying to process that his year-long nightmare came to pass. its end on Saturday.
“I think it’s been a really fantastic couple of days. I also think it’s been an overwhelming couple of days,» said Rebecca Steinbach, a spokeswoman for Ryan Iskerka, whose daughter, Kayla Unbehaun, went missing in July 2017.
The girl is back in Illinois with her father.
«Every time I talk to Ryan, all he wants to do is make sure Kayla is okay, so that’s his priority,» Steinbach, who is also a spokesman for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said in a phone call. Wednesday.
«You pray for this day. You hope and wish for this day,» he said. «And to get the news out of the blue that ‘hey, we found her,’ I think they’re still processing the last four or five days.»
Kayla, who turned 15 in January, was 9 years old when she disappeared in Illinois in 2017 while in the care of her mother, Heather Unbehaun.
Authorities told NBC’s «Nightly News» that an employee at Plato’s Closet in Asheville, North Carolina, recognized Kayla and told her manager. The manager contacted the police.
The employee had a «personal connection» to Kayla in childhood, Lt. Jonathan Brown said, adding that the Netflix episode «raised her awareness and made the connection more plausible.»
The disappearance was one of several cases involving alleged family kidnappings featured on an episode of Netflix’s «Unsolved Mysteries» in November.
Brown said the mother and daughter gave officers false names and birthdays, but that once officers «started cross-referencing it with the information the original informant provided, they were able to come up with his true identity.»
Heather Unbehaun, 40, was arrested on a runaway charge Saturday, according to an Asheville police arrest report. She was released on bond Tuesday from a North Carolina jail, a court clerk said.
He turned himself in Wednesday at a Kane County, Illinois, jail on a child kidnapping charge, online records show. Bail was set at $10,000.
Iskerka said in a video 2020 about the case that he and Unbehaun, his ex-girlfriend, had reached an informal custody agreement but as things got «complicated» they took the matter to court.
“We went to court and made agreements on how we would follow an order, and she couldn’t follow that. She was unable to follow the order that we agreed to in court,” she said in the video, which was shared. by Steinbach. «Then she had repeatedly not followed what she was saying.»
In early 2017, Iskerka was awarded full custody of Kayla, and she began living at his home. Unbehaun visited weekly.
Around July 4 of that year, Iskerka said in the video, he went to the Unbehaun home to pick up Kayla, but they weren’t there. Other family members at the home said Unbehaun hadn’t returned from a camping trip and they didn’t know where she was, Iskerka said. She filed a missing person report for Kayla.
Unbehaun could not be reached at a phone number listed for her. Her family and Unbehaun’s attorney declined to comment.
It’s unclear how long Unbehaun and Kayla have been in North Carolina, and authorities haven’t released details about what they’ve been up to over the past six years.
Steinbach said the family is working to rebuild their relationship with Kayla.
«I think they’re doing very well, but they’re taking it day by day,» he said. «He’s been gone for six years, and those are the formative years. He’s entering his teens, so his priority is getting to know each other again.»