‘Miraculous’: Community, father grateful missing girl from Illinois found in NC

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A girl reported missing out of Illinois years ago was just found in Asheville, North Carolina, thanks to a Netflix show, ABC7 in Chicago reports. People at the shopping center where she was found describe what happened as “miraculous.”

Police said Kayla Unbehaun was recognized by someone at Plato’s Closet in the Westgate Regional Shopping Center in west Asheville. Her mother, who did not have custody of her, was arrested outside the Earth Fare store there.

Now, five years after being reported missing, Unbehaun is being reunited with her family in Illinois. She was just 9 years old when when she was last seen in July 2017. Police said her father, who had full custody, went to pick her up from her mother’s home in Wheaton, about 30 miles outside of Chicago, but she was gone.

In the years after her disappearance, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children posted an alert online showing Kayla at age 9 and an age-progressed photo of how she may look now.

The case was mentioned during an episode of Netflix’s “Unsolved Mysteries” series about parental abductions. Over the weekend, a Plato’s Closet employee who had seen that show apparently recognized Unbehaun and called police. Investigators said that employee also had some sort of connection to Kayla.

“There was a personal connection with a person in the store to the abducted child, coupled with the Netflix documentary where they believe they had made a preliminary identification but they were not quite sure,” said Asheville Police Lt. Jonathan Brown.

On Tuesday, Channel 9′s Dave Faherty visited several of the stores in the area. Workers told him they were grateful that after all these years, Unbehaun has been found.

“I think it’s miraculous that they were able to find the girl and that she was able to make it home safe,” said hairdresser Tyanna Wilson. “I’m glad that we continue to follow these cases.”

Police told Faherty they don’t think the mother and daughter had been living in Asheville the entire time since the abduction. Investigators said when they approached Heather Unbehaun, she gave a fictitious name for both her and her daughter.

Heather Unbehaun was given a $250,000 bond that she posted Tuesday morning and is awaiting extradition. Court documents Faherty obtained describe the crimes as kidnapping and abduction.

Questions police are still trying to answer are exactly where the mother and daughter were living in Asheville, how long they had been here, and if Kayla was in school.

Kayla’s father is “overjoyed” that she’s been found safe.

(WATCH BELOW: Abducted Illinois girl found after Asheville store owner recognized her from Netflix show)