SOUTH ELGIN, Ill. — A girl who was allegedly abducted in South Elgin in 2017 by her noncustodial mother has been found safe in North Carolina after she was spotted at a business, authorities said.
Officers found a woman and a minor child at the business in Asheville, North Carolina, and were able to confirm their identities, police said. They said the woman, Heather Unbehaun, 40, was wanted on an extradition warrant out of Illinois for child abduction.
Unbehaun posted a $25,000 bond Tuesday and was released from custody, the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office said. Unbehaun declined to waive extradition, the office said.
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It wasn’t clear whether Unbehaun has an attorney who might comment on the allegations against her.
“I’m very pleased to find out the little girl is safe,” said Amy Schaff, who lives nearby.
South Elgin, Illinois, police said they were notified Saturday by police in Asheville that they had received a tip from a Plato’s Closet store employee who recognized Unbehaun and recalled that the child was missing.
“We received a call from a local business where an employee had reported to their manager that they believed they had recognized this juvenile,” said Asheville police Lt. Jonathan Brown.
The store employee immediately notified Asheville police, who contacted South Elgin police.
“There was a personal childhood connection and this employee believed that they recognized this abducted teenager and was probably unsure if that was truly who they were looking at but as it turns out, it was,” Brown said.
Asheville police then took Unbehaun into custody. The child has since been reunited with her father.
“We are overjoyed to report that the child is in good condition and in good spirits since being reunited with her father,” South Elgin Police Chief Jerry Krawczyk said in a statement.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said the girl was nine when Unehaun, her noncustodial mother, allegedly abducted her from South Elgin on July 5, 2017.
In its news release, the center included a statement from Ryan Iserka, Kayla’s father, saying he’s “overjoyed” that his daughter “is home safe.” He thanked the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, South Elgin police and other law enforcement agencies for their efforts.
“We ask for privacy as we get to know each other again and navigate this new beginning,” he added.
Iserka was supposed to pick up his daughter from her mother’s Wheaton home, but neither turned up. Unbehaun did not have custody rights of Kayla.
Kayla is now 15.