Woman reported missing en route to O.C. 'found to be safe' in Northern California

Nikki Alcaraz
Nikki Alcaraz, who was traveling from Tennessee to Orange County when she was reported missing by her family, was "found to be safe" in Northern California on Tuesday, according to law enforcement. (Cheatham County [Tenn.] Sheriff's Office)

A woman who left on a cross-country trip from Tennessee and was reported missing by her family after a domestic dispute in New Mexico was found in Northern California on Tuesday, according to law enforcement.

Nikki Alcaraz, 33, left her home in Cheatham County, Tenn., with her boyfriend and a dog earlier this month in her black Jeep Wrangler. The couple planned to drive to Alcaraz's relative's home in Orange County, but her family lost contact with her after she was allegedly beaten by her boyfriend, her family told KABC-TV 7 in Los Angeles.

For weeks, Alcaraz was out of communication with her family, but she was "found to be safe" in the coastal city of Eureka, Calif., the Redding Police Department announced in a social media post Tuesday afternoon.

Her disappearance garnered national attention as her family and law enforcement tracked her movement across the country.

Alcaraz told her family that she and her boyfriend, Tyler Stratton, got into a fight at a truck stop near Albuquerque, relatives said. Alcaraz shared photos with her family of bruises on her arms and a black eye, they said.

A missing person poster for Nikki Alcaraz.
A missing person poster for Nikki Alcaraz. (Cheatham County Sheriff's Office)

In New Mexico, a Torrance County sheriff's deputy called to investigate the incident on May 4 noted that Stratton had a bloody nose and Alcaraz had red marks on her arms and face, according to a police report. A witness reported seeing Stratton strike Alcaraz, according to the report.

Alcaraz and Stratton appeared intoxicated when the deputy arrived, and Stratton said they were both drinking whiskey and beer, said the deputy. Both declined to press charges, according to the report.

The deputy observed blood inside and outside their Jeep, possibly from Stratton's bloody nose, according to the deputy's report.

"It was determined that both parties were mutual combatants while traveling down the interstate," the deputy wrote. "The bruise on Ms. Alcaraz's arms came from Mr. Stratton holding her down to avoid being hit."

Alcaraz's family told Nashville station WKRN-TV that a friend drove from California to New Mexico to retrieve Alcaraz on May 6, but she refused to leave without Stratton.

She subsequently was not answering calls to her cellphone, ratcheting up concern among family members. In her last text message, on May 8, she told her sister that she was in Arizona and planned to continue to Orange County, according to her family.

But on Saturday, Alcaraz was seen in a Walmart store in Redding, about 120 miles from the Oregon border, according to the Cheatham County Sheriff's Office.

A camera at an EcoATM kiosk captured an image of Alcaraz at the Redding Walmart, where she reportedly sold her phone. In the photo, Alcaraz is standing next to a man identified as Stratton, according to Cheatham County sheriff's officials.

The Redding Police Department said Alcaraz was no longer considered a missing person.

Alcaraz contacted her sister on Tuesday after she was found by police in Eureka, according to her cousin Lonnie Alcaraz.

She was with Stratton and told police she was safe and didn't need help, according to a news release from the Eureka Police Department.

Stratton was listed as booked into a Humboldt County Jail shortly after 3:30 p.m., according to jail records.

He was arrested on an outstanding warrant out of Tennessee with full extradition for failure to appear on a theft-related offense, according to a news release from the Eureka Police Department.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.