CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Tennessee family is desperately trying to find their loved one after they say she disappeared while traveling across the country with her boyfriend, who is currently wanted on an unrelated arrest warrant.
The fear over Nikki’s disappearance has been heightened by some eerie similarities to the high-profile Gabby Petito case.
Toni Alcaraz last spoke with her 33-year-old sister, Nikki Alcaraz, also known as Nikki Cunningham, three weeks ago.
Nikki had set out in her black Jeep with her boyfriend, Tyler Stratton, and a dog to visit family in Orange County, California.
“I talk to her almost every day, so I am scared something happened to them,” said Toni. “It’s a trip she’s done hundreds of times. Our uncle is still in Southern California, and she goes to see him often.”
During their cross-country trip, the couple had a run-in with law enforcement in Torrance County, New Mexico. According to a Torrance County Sheriff’s Office report from May 4, a witness saw Stratton punch Nikki in the face. The report went on to say that Stratton claimed he was also hit, with blood coming from his mouth and nose.
Since neither one wanted to press charges, authorities said Stratton and Nikki were given rides. After Nikki was dropped off in Moriarty, Toni said Nikki called her.
“She was crying and upset. Her eye was already turning black and you could tell she was beat up pretty bad,” Toni recalled.
Shortly after the fight, Toni said a family friend drove to New Mexico, where he met up with Nikki in hopes of bringing her to California.
“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,” Toni explained.
Toni believes that friend was the last person to see her sister on May 6.
However, Nikki did communicate with Toni via text two days later, on May 8, saying she was in Arizona with plans to complete the trip to California.
“Then I didn’t hear anything else after that Monday morning,” Toni said.
Nikki’s phone now appears to be out of service, leaving her family fearing the worst.
“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,” Toni said, adding that Nikki has two children in Cheatham County.
The fear over Nikki’s disappearance has been heightened by some eerie similarities to the high-profile Gabby Petito case. The 22-year-old Florida woman set off on a cross-country trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, in July 2021. More than two months later, Petito’s body was found in a Wyoming national park.
Laundrie was found dead in a Florida preserve in October 2021, near a notebook where he confessed to killing Petito.
“All the stories like that that seem to happen and seem to happen more often make it more terrifying,” Toni said.
According to Toni, a license plate reader picked up Nikki’s Jeep near Flagstaff, Arizona, on May 9. Toni filed a missing persons report in New Mexico since that’s where Nikki was last seen.
District Attorney General Ray Crouch in Cheatham County, Tennessee, said officials are gathering information from law enforcement in New Mexico and Arizona.
He said his office has requested nationwide extradition for Stratton, who has an unrelated arrest warrant for failure to appear on a probation violation that stems from a theft charge.
Nikki is 5 feet 6 inches tall with brown eyes and black/brown hair. She also has many tattoos.
The Jeep is a 2013 black Jeep Wrangler with a tag saying BGL3539, a “Mama Tried” sticker, and camo seats.
Anyone with information about Nikki’s whereabouts is asked to call Moriarty, New Mexico police at 505-832-6060 or 505-834-2705.