Against all odds, there was a glimmer of hope…

Losing a loved one is a pain that lingers, a wound that never truly heals. But what if, against all odds, you were given a glimmer of hope that they might still be out there, waiting to be found?

That’s the extraordinary story of Kayla Unbehaun, a missing teenager whose haunting case was brought back into the spotlight by an unexpected turn of events.

Kayla Unbehaun was 9 years old when police said her mother, Heather, abducted her in July 2017 from South Elgin, Illinois — about 45 miles northwest of Chicago.

Back in 2017, the girl’s father went to pick Kayla up from her mother’s house after a court-ordered visitation. When he arrived, however, the pair were nowhere to be found, alarming the other family members, and local authorities.

A felony warrant was issued to Kayla’s mother for kidnapping, as it was believed the two had packed up and headed to Athens, Illinois at the time.

How Netflix and “Unsolved Mysteries” Helped to Crack an Old Case

Five years later, the story was featured at the end of a 2022 episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” on Netflix.

The popular television series uses re-enactments and interviews to cover unsolved mysteries — as the title suggests.

It often showcases lost loves, unexplained history, or paranormal events. When an image of Kayla was shown at the end of one episode, one viewer stopped in his tracks.
A store owner in North Carolina recognized the girl at an Asheville shopping center and called the authorities.

The image included in the show used age-progression technology to imagine what the girl looked like at 15 years old — and it worked.

The police were able to locate the girl and her mother, thanks to the tip. Kayla was placed in protective custody,

Kayla Unbehaun: Almost a Decade Later

Her mother was arrested in Asheville and charged with child abduction, a felony, before being released on bond according to a press release by the South Elgin Police Department.

The department said the now 15-year-old is in good condition and in good spirits since being reunited with her family. The department is also helping the family get social services.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shared a post to their Facebook page, celebrating the safe return of Kayla.

Kayla’s dad, Ryan, asked NCMEC to share this statement on his behalf,

“I’m overjoyed that Kayla is home safe. I want to thank the South Elgin Police Department, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and all of the law enforcement agencies who assisted with her case,” he said. “I also want to thank all of the followers on the “Bring Kayla Home” Facebook page, who helped keep her story alive and were instrumental in spreading awareness. We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning.”

Ryan never forgot about his daughter while she was missing, too.

Two years ago, he celebrated her birthday in a Facebook post, writing: “I’m always looking forward to seeing you again someday. I pray for you every day and think about you all day long.”

He never stopped writing, praying, and thinking about his daughter even when all hope seemed lost. He was determined to reconnect with his daughter, a drive that kept him going through a parent’s darkest times.

Though Kayla was found through a bizarre twist of fate, her story is one of never giving up hope for anyone. Even when authorities deemed her case “cold” to the point of a show about unsolved mysteries featuring her– those close to her never gave up hope.