Kayla Unbehaun, now 15, was discovered alive in Asheville, North Carolina, on Saturday, following recognition by a shop owner who had seen her in an episode of the enigmatic series, “Unsolved Mysteries.”
An Illinois father and his daughter have been reunited after a six-year separation, during which the young girl was allegedly abducted by her non-custodial mother. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicates that they have a “profound journey of healing” ahead of them.
At the age of 9, Kayla was first reported missing from South Elgin, Illinois, on July 5, 2017. This was after she failed to return from a Fourth of July parade with her mother, Heather Unbehaun, as previously reported by PEOPLE.
While Kayla’s father, Ryan Iskerka, is filled with immense joy at the reunion, it should be acknowledged that this type of case is exceedingly intricate, particularly considering the emotional toll it has taken. According to NCMEC spokeswoman Rebecca Steinbach, one can assume the complexity arises from the fact that your parent is still your parent. She adds that being a teenager at the age of 15 could make the situation even more challenging. The experience might be incredibly bewildering and disorienting, and Kayla probably does not wish to see either parent hurt.
In connection to the case, 40-year-old Unbehaun appeared in a Kane County court in Illinois on Thursday, facing a charge of child abduction. She was released on $10,000 bond but was ordered to wear a GPS tracking monitor, according to WLS-TV. Details regarding her plea or representation by an attorney remain uncertain.
The situation still feels surreal, but the family is rallying together, utilizing every resource and support available, and taking it one day at a time, as expressed by Steinbach.
In the meantime, Iserka has requested privacy as he reconnects and rebuilds a relationship with Kayla.
“I am overjoyed that Kayla is back home safe,” said Iserka in a statement shared by NCMEC. “I extend my gratitude to the Elgin police and fire departments, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and all the law enforcement agencies that assisted with her case. We ask for privacy as we reintroduce ourselves and embark on this new beginning.”