Netflix ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ may have helped finally find girl who’s been missing for nearly 6 years
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Featured Image Credit: NCMEC
Police believe that the discovery of a girl who had been missing for nearly six years could have been thanks to shows like Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries.
Kayla Unbehaun, aged nine, had last been seen in July 2017, but was abducted by her mom, Heather, after her dad, Ryan, won full custody of her.
For years, police searched for the missing child and her mother, but her abduction eventually became a cold case.
That was until last weekend, when someone at a shopping centre in Asheville, North Carolina, spotted Heather, recognising her from Kayla's story, and called police right away.
In an effort to track down his missing daughter, Kayla's dad Ryan had tried to get her story spread far and wide.
Not only was her face - as well as age-progression photos of what she might look like as she gets older - posted in an online alert by the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), but the story of Kayla's abduction was told on true crime TV series.
Kayla's disappearance was first discussed on the series Vanished: The Missing Persons Project in 2020, which is available to stream on Peacock.
It was then profiled again just last year on Netflix's hit docu-series Unsolved Mysteries.
Police say that the witness who spotted Kayla's mom last week had recognised Heather from 'published media'.
Although the witness didn't specify which 'published media' they knew Heather from, Netflix did tweet on Tuesday (16 May): "An Unsolved Mysteries viewer has closed the case!
"A store owner in North Carolina recognized Kayla Unbehaun — who was abducted in 2017 by her non-custodial mother — from the roll call in Volume 3, Episode 9. Kayla, now 15, is expected to return to her family in Illinois."
Heather Unbehaun was arrested on Saturday (13 May) and taken into custody.
She was being held on a $250,000 bond awaiting extradition back to Illinois, but on Tuesday (16 May), authorities confirmed that Heather had made bail and been released.
Heather is due to appear at her first court date on July 11.
Meanwhile, after being found, Kayla was held by North Carolina Department of Social Services while authorities in Illinois were alerted.
The following day, Kayla's dad Ryan came to pick her up and bring her home.
In a statement, Ryan said: "I’m overjoyed that Kayla is home safe. I want to thank [Elgin, Illinois Police Department and Fire Department], 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."