Missing mother Nikki Alcaraz who vanished on roadtrip is found alive as boyfriend arrested
By Maroosha Muzaffar and Bevan Hurley,2023-05-31
A Tennessee woman who disappeared on a cross-country roadtrip with her boyfriend has been found safe in California, police say.
Nikki Alcaraz, 33, and her boyfriend Tyler Stratton were located in the town of Eureka at 7.15am on Tuesday after a witness called to report a sighting, Redding Police Department said in a statement.
Mr Stratton has been arrested on an unrelated outstanding warrant, Eureka police said.
Ms Alcaraz left her home in Cheatham County in her black Jeep Wrangler with her Mr Stratton to visit family in Orange County , California, earlier this month.
Her family said they developed grave concerns for her safety after the couple were pulled over by authorities in New Mexico for an alleged domestic violence incident.
Officers let them go without pressing criminal charges after Mr Stratton claimed he had also been hit.
Bodycam from the incident released on Tuesday showed both Ms Alcaraz and Mr Stratton with facial injuries.
Ms Alcaraz’s disappearance attracted nationwide attention after drawing comparisons to the Gabby Petito case.
In 2021, Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie were pulled over in Moab, Utah, after police received reports of a domestic assault.
The officers failed to press charges against Laundrie after he claimed he had also been hit, and he went on to murder the 22-year-old vlogger and dump her remains in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Police said Ms Alcaraz – who also goes by Nikki Cunningham — was spotted in a Walmart in Redding, California, on 27 May.
Then on Tuesday, Redding police announced she was located unharmed.
“The Redding Police Department has been in contact with the Moriarty, New Mexico Police Department and confirmed Nikki is no longer considered a missing person.”
Earlier, Ms Alcaraz’s sister, Toni Alcaraz told WKRN that she hadn’t heard from her since she received a text message on 9 May saying she was planning to continue to California.
The sister said that she spoke to Ms Alcaraz after the alleged assault and that she was crying and upset.
“Her eye was already turning black and you could tell she was beat up pretty bad,” Toni Alcaraz told the news site.
Photos released by the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Department showed Ms Alcaraz with a black left eye after the incident.
According to an incident report, Mr Stratton claimed he had also been hit, and Torrance County sheriff’s deputies observed blood coming from his mouth.
Ms Alcaraz was previously thought to have been last seen on the morning of 6 May at a Super 8 motel in the small town of Moriarty, New Mexico, about 40 miles east of Albuquerque.
A license plate reader picked up Ms Alcaraz’s Jeep near Flagstaff, Arizona earlier this month, but police said her cellphone was out of service and untraceable.
Then a Cheatham County deputy told News 2 that she was seen at a Walmart in Redding, California, on 27 May. A photo released by the county District Attorney General Ray Crouch shows her selling her phone at an ecoATM.
In September 2021, Gabby Petito’s remains were found in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming after she disappeared on a road trip with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie.
The couple was pulled over in Utah by officers from the Moab Police Department on 12 August after receiving reports that Laundrie had struck Petito.
They were allowed to continue separately after Laundrie claimed he had been hit by Petito.
An independent review of the domestic assault incident found the officers had made several mistakes, and should have been classified as a domestic assault.
Laundrie later shot himself in the head and left a suicide note confessing to killing Petito.
Petito’s family are suing the Moab Police Department for failing to follow the law and protect her during the traffic stop.