A Tennessee mother of two who went missing earlier this month while road-tripping across the U.S. was beaten so badly by her boyfriend days before she vanished, a long-haul trucker who witnessed the alleged attack “had nightmares about it.”
“It messed me up for days afterward,” Jordan Hamilton told The Daily Beast. “Like, it fucked me up. It was violent.”
Nikki Alcaraz, 33, went missing on or around May 9, according to her family, who says she was driving to California from Nashville, where she lives, with her partner of 15 years, Steven Tyler Stratton. At about 1 p.m. on May 4, police in New Mexico responded to a 911 call from a concerned citizen—Hamilton—who said he spotted Stratton assaulting a bloodied Alcaraz at a rest area near Mile Marker 224 along Interstate 40.
However, cops let Stratton go—and Torrance County Sheriff David Frazee said he’s looking into it.
“I am having an investigation into the deputy’s actions to try and determine if they violated our policies and if they did, I will certainly handle it,” he told The Daily Beast on Tuesday.
Still, Frazee said that he has “no information to indicate [Alcaraz] is in immediate danger.” His office has received information from police in Redding, California “indicating that Nikki went to an ECO ATM and sold her phone and that she is still in the company of Steven Stratton in [her] black Jeep. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for traveling motorists to engage in domestic violence incidents.”
According to an incident report provided to The Daily Beast by the Torrance County Sheriff’s Office, a woman had called 911 shortly before Hamilton on May 4, and was “on the line screaming [but] then [would] not answer.” While en route, the 911 dispatcher received another call from “a truck driver who was passing by… and noticed a possible domestic between and [sic] male and female.”
Hamilton, an Army vet who drives tractor-trailers on a regular run from Georgia to California, right away felt the need to intervene, he said. Hamilton was “driving by when he noticed the female sitting on the ground with the male over her and he punched her in the face,” according to the incident report.
Speaking to The Daily Beast from the cab of his truck, Hamilton reiterated that same narrative, adding, “It instantly pissed me off, man. It instantly sent me into a fight or flight mode, and so I pulled the truck over immediately. I have a co-driver, I was like, ‘Demonya, I just seen a guy punch a girl in the face. I’m about to go check this motherfucker.’ I threw on my Chicago Bears hat and jumped out, and I was ready to go smash this guy’s teeth in.”
As he approached, Hamilton, who stands six-foot-two and weighs 240 pounds, said he could hear Alcaraz crying.
“I asked her, ‘Are you OK?’” Hamilton recalled on Tuesday. “And she’s like, ‘No, I’m not OK.’ So I asked if she needed any help, and she said, ‘Yeah, he beat me up. Can you call the cops?’”
Hamilton, who did not know Alcaraz’s name, or that she had since been reported as missing, until being contacted by The Daily Beast on Tuesday, was then able to get a clear look at Alcaraz’s face, which he described as “lumpy and very bruised up.”
“That dude beat the brakes off of that girl,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said he then positioned himself in front of Alcaraz to shield her from Stratton. A lone deputy arrived, and Alcaraz told him what had happened. Then, Hamilton said he relayed his version of events. At this point, the officer asked Hamilton to help him get Stratton into handcuffs, according to the incident report, which says Stratton’s mouth and nose appeared bloody.
“Ms. Alcaraz stated that they had dropped off a friend (name not given) in Amarillo TX,” the incident report continues. “Ms. Alcaraz stated that they picked up a bottle of Fire Ball [sic] and they both started to drink.”
Alcaraz said Stratton ”started to hit her for no reason,” and that “when they got to this rest area she jumped out of the vehicle and [Stratton] caught her.” Alcaraz told the deputy that she wanted to press charges against Stratton, who is misidentified by the name “Thomas” at one point in the incident report. (The mention of “Thomas” was a typo, Frazee told The Daily Beast.)
Alcaraz, who had been in the passenger seat, had red marks on her face and fingerprint marks on both arms, as well as a bruise on her chest and back, according to the report.
Stratton, whose rap sheet includes felony and misdemeanor arrests for theft and fraud, as well as a misdemeanor DUI charge, told a different story. He insisted to the deputy that Alcaraz had been driving and she was the one who hit him, unprovoked. However, he said he “did not want Nikki to go to jail,” according to the incident report. Additional deputies arrived, along with medics who told Stratton his blood pressure was high and that he needed to get checked out at the hospital. But he refused.
One of the deputies noticed the driver’s seat was pushed back far enough to suggest “a taller person was driving,” and saw blood spatter on the passenger side door. This, the deputy surmised, “would have come from Mr. Stratton since he was the only one with visible blood on his face.”
“I also noticed blood on the running board,” the deputy wrote in the report. “It was determined that both parties were mutual combatants while traveling down the interstate.”
Neither one would admit to having been the Jeep’s driver and deputies believe the pair were both intoxicated, the report says, adding that each ultimately declined to press battery charges against the other. Alcaraz was given a ride to Moriarty, New Mexico, according to the report. Stratton was dropped off in the town of Edgewood, roughly 10 miles away. The incident report does not specify where each went after that, but Frazee said they were taken there to “bed down separately.”
“Our information is that [it] was successful, and the couple traveled on the next day,” he told The Daily Beast.
The Jeep, a 2013 Wrangler owned by Alcaraz, was towed, according to the incident report, which shows the interaction between Alcaraz, Stratton, and police took two hours.
The next day, Alcaraz arrived at the tow yard, driving a vehicle with California plates, to pick up the Jeep, the incident report states. She was with a man who was not Stratton, it says. The unidentified man drove away in the Jeep, and Alcaraz departed in the man’s car, according to the report. The two had called in to retrieve the Jeep using the man’s phone, which had a Santa Ana area code. A call to the number, which The Daily Beast has redacted from the incident report, went to voicemail, with a man’s voice identifying himself only as “Danny.”
Alcaraz and Stratton have not been seen since.
Alcaraz’s sister said she last texted with her sibling on May 8, when Alcaraz said she was in Arizona and planning to end the trip. Two days before that, she had called her from New Mexico, “crying and upset,” Toni Alcaraz told local outlet KNRN-TV.
“Her eye was already turning black and you could tell she was beat up pretty bad,” Toni said.
On May 9, Alcaraz’s Jeep was outside Flagstaff, Arizona, according to license plate readers in the area, her sister said.
“It’s not like her to not reach out to anybody, especially her kids,” Alcaraz’s brother Josh told KABC.
To Hamilton, what he saw is something he will not soon forget.
“I never seen a girl so beat up like that, ever,” he told The Daily Beast. “… One of the reasons it hit home for me is because a couple of my family members went through abusive relationships… I just hope she turns out to be OK. I’ve never seen a woman’s face so bruised up like that. Nobody deserves to be treated like that.”
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