NCMEC_Kayla Unbehaun

This age progression photo shows what 12-year-old Kayla Unbehaun might look like today. Unbehaun was allegedly abducted from her Illinois home by her mother in 2017.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released an age-progression photo on Jan. 8 of a missing 12-year-old girl who may be in the Athens area.

Kayla Unbehaun has been missing from her home in South Elgin, Illinois since July 5, 2017, when her mother, Heather Unbehaun, allegedly abducted her, according to a blog post by the NCMEC.

A felony arrest warrant for kidnapping was issued for Heather Unbehaun on July 29, 2017. Heather Unbehaun allegedly abducted her daughter after Ryan Iskerka, Kayla Unbehaun’s father, was awarded full custody of his daughter.

Heather Unbehaun felt “connected” with Athens and was “very drawn to the lifestyle” in the city, said Angeline Hartmann, the NCMEC’s media director. This led the NCMEC to believe she may have taken Kayla to the city after abducting her. Heather Unbehaun also had ties with residents of the metro Atlanta area, according to a Jan. 9 NCMEC media advisory.

Since Kayla’s 2017 disappearance, there have been unconfirmed reports of her and her mother staying in the Athens area, some of which were reported over the last year, Hartmann said.

Hartmann said releasing the age-progression image of Kayla may be the key to finding her. She also said although the image is not a photo, and is not exact, it is a “likeness of what [Kayla] might look like today.”

The Red & Black reported on Kayla’s disappearance in 2017 and described her as being 4 feet, 4 inches tall, having sandy brown hair and blue eyes. Her mother, Heather Unbehaun, was described as being 5 feet, 3 inches tall, having blonde hair and blue eyes.

“It’s very possible that Kayla is not going to school,” Hartmann said. “[It is possible that] she is being isolated, and that’s what we’re focused on. A lot of times ... when we have family abductions involving family members, the biggest misconception is that the child is okay. If Kayla is not in school, she is not okay.”

Iskerka published a letter written to Kayla on the NCMEC’s blog on Jan. 8 to commemorate her 12th birthday.

“I realize you are growing and changing and you probably look different like in the age progression photograph, which is hard for my mind to accept,” Iskerka wrote in the letter. “I miss you sweetie and I will never give up on you.”

Hartmann urged anyone with information regarding the case to contact the NCMEC at 800-843-5678.

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