Nikki Alcaraz disappeared without a trace during a road trip from her home in Tennessee to California with her boyfriend Tyler Stratton.
Ms. Alcaraz, 33, was last seen on May 6 in the New Mexico town of Moriarty.
Authorities and her desperate family are asking for information on her whereabouts.
The missing person case has drawn comparisons to the Gabby Petito investigation after Torrance County sheriff’s deputies sidelined the couple after receiving reports that Mr. Stratton assaulted Ms. Alcaraz.
The officers let them go without filing criminal charges after Mr. Stratton claimed he was also hit.
Here’s what we know about the case.
Nikki Alcaraz, a mother of two, also known as Nikki Hernandez, left her home in Cheatham County, Tennessee, in late April in her 2013 Jeep Wrangler with Tennessee license plates on her way to Orange County to visit family.
Mrs Alcaraz was traveling with her friend Mr Stratton and a dog.
On May 4, sheriff’s deputies in Torrance County, New Mexico, sidelined the pair after receiving a report that he had punched Mrs. Alcaraz.
Mr Stratton told authorities he was also hit, and both declined to press charges.
Authorities have since released photos showing Ms Alcaraz with a black eye, cuts on her face and severe bruising on her arms after the alleged attack.
“He beat her up pretty bad,” her brother Josh Alcaraz told me Fox5.
“A truck driver had to pull him off her, call the police, the police picked him up, took him down a few turns and dropped him off. She was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and a broken hand or wrist.”
Mrs. Alcaraz was taken to a Super 8 motel in the town of Moriarty.
A friend traveled from California and stayed overnight with her at the motel. The plan was for the girlfriend to take her back to California.
On May 6, Mrs. Alcaraz left the motel and told the friend she was going to find her boyfriend. According to the woman’s family, this was the last time she was seen alive.
So told her sister Toni Alcaraz WKN that she received a text message on May 8 stating that she was in Arizona and planned to continue the journey to California. She hasn’t heard anything since then.
Ms Alcaraz told the news site it was highly unusual not to hear from her for a long time.
Ms. Alcaraz’s license plate number was retrieved on May 9 near Flagstaff, Arizona. But her phone is reportedly turned off and no further sightings have been reported.
Investigation of missing persons
Toni Alcaraz said she filed a missing persons report in New Mexico because she was last seen there.
Josh Alcaraz said he feared his sister’s vehicle might have broken down in the desert or gone off the road.
“We would like everyone to keep their eyes open, and if you see the jeep, if you see it, if you see her, call someone. Call the police,” he told Fox5.
Officials in Cheatham County, Tennessee, are working with law enforcement in New Mexico and California to locate Ms. Alcaraz.
“Because of a history of domestic violence, we believe she is in danger,” the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post asking for information.
That’s what District Attorney Ray Crouch said WKN his office had requested a nationwide extradition for Mr. Stratton, who is also missing.
Mr. Stratton is wanted on an unrelated warrant for theft and has pleaded for help from the public.
The family says they hold on to the hope of finding Mrs Alcaraz alive.
“If you see the jeep, if you see it, if you see her, call somebody,” said Josh Alcaraz Fox5.
“The worst-case scenario is of course very much in the back of my mind. I try to keep hope.”
Mrs. Alcaraz, also known as Nikki Cunningham, is 1.70 m tall, has brown eyes and black/brown hair. She also has several eye-catching tattoos.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call Moriarty Police at 505-832-6060 or 505-834-2705.
According to online reports, Mr. Stratton’s family has reportedly not filed a missing person report.
Gabby Petito Equations
The allegations of assault during a cross-country road trip draw comparisons to the 2021 disappearance and murder of vlogger Gabby Petito.
Petito left her home in New York in July of that year with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie.
The couple were apprehended in Utah on Aug. 12 by Moab Police Department officers after receiving reports that Laundrie had punched Petito.
They were allowed to continue separately after Laundrie claimed he was hit by Petito.
After a nationwide search and international media attention, Petito’s remains were found in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park in September.
Laundrie later shot himself in the head and left a suicide note confessing to killing Petito.
Petito’s family is suing the Moab Police Department for breaking the law and failing to protect her during a traffic stop.
An independent review of the domestic violence incident found that the officers made several mistakes and should have been classified as domestic violence.
Petito’s family is also suing Laundrie’s parents, Chris and Roberta, for emotional distress.