A Tennessee woman has gone missing after heading out on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend several weeks ago — in a case that shares some eerie similarities with the high profile 2021 disappearance of Long Island native Gabby Petito.
Nikki Alcaraz, 33, who is also known as Nikki Cunningham, set off from Nashville with her boyfriend Tyler Stratton and their dog in her Jeep, in early May to visit family in Orange County, California, her sister Toni Alcaraz told local outlet KNRN-TV Sunday.
Nikki last communicated with Toni over text on May 8, telling her she was in Arizona and planned to complete the trip, according to the report.
“Then I didn’t hear anything else after that Monday morning,” Toni told the outlet. “I talk to her almost every day, so I am scared something happened to them.”
The couple had a run-in with cops on May 4 in Torrance County, New Mexico.
A witness saw Stratton punch Alcaraz in the face, a Torrance County Sheriff’s Office police report said, according to the article.
But Stratton, who had blood coming from his mouth and nose, told officers he had been attacked by her, the report said.
Neither wanted to press charges and authorities said they were each given rides to different places, according to the outlet.
Stratton had a warrant out for his arrest for allegedly violating his probation in connection with an unrelated theft charge at the time, but was not busted, the report said.
Alcaraz then called her sister, “crying and upset,” Toni told the outlet.
“Her eye was already turning black and you could tell she was beat up pretty bad,” Toni told the station of the phone call the two shared after the incident.
A family friend drove to New Mexico to bring Alcaraz to California but, “That morning when they were supposed to leave, she told him that she had to go back and find Tyler because she had a bad feeling, and so he left without her,” her sister said.
She believes that friend was the last person to see Alcaraz on May 6.
The sisters communicated by text two days later, which is when Alcaraz, a mom of two, said she was in Arizona and intended to complete the trip.
Alcaraz and Stratton’s phones have been turned off, leaving Toni to fear the worst for her sister.
“I am scared something happened to them, whether they got in another fight or if they crashed her Jeep somewhere,” she told the outlet.
The couple’s mid-trip run-in with law enforcement is one resemblances to the case of Petito, the 22-year-old travel blogger who went missing in August 2021 while on a cross-country trek with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie.
Petitio and Laundrie were also stopped by police after a domestic incident in Utah, where cops concluded the pair had attacked each other and let them go without charges.
Two months later, Petito’s strangled body was found at a Wyoming campground.
Laundrie had driven to his parent’s Florida home as public scrutiny mounted. He eventually committed suicide amid a manhunt.
Petitio’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department, claiming cops should have detained Laundrie and not let the couple go on their way.
Toni Alcaraz said she is “praying” that her sister is alive and well.
“I don’t think she is dead out there somewhere, but it’s all a possibility at this point, and I am really scared of that, but I’m praying that’s not the case,” she told the outlet.
A missing persons report was filed in New Mexico where Nikki Alcaraz was last seen, according to the article.
Her 2013 Jeep Wrangler with Tennessee license plate number BGL3539, a “Mama Tried” sticker and camo seats was last picked up by a license plate reader near Flagstaff, AZ on May 9, the report said.
Alcaraz is 5-foot, 6-inches tall and heavily tattooed with brown eyes and dark colored hair.
Anyone with information is asked to call Moriarty, NM police at 505-832-6060 or 505-834-2705.