A woman from Highlands County who was being held hostage together with her children manage to escape the situation by sending a secret message in an online pizza order in which she requested help.
Cheryl Treadway, the woman who was being held hostage placed a pizza order at a Pizza Hut restaurant. The order included a comment with the message: “Please help. Get 911 to me. 911 hostage help!”
Chef Alonia Hawk spotted the message and Candy Hamilton, the store manager printed it. Hawk said that she was very worried for the customer. The Pizza Hut restaurant was in Avon Park. After the employees saw that the message coming from the frequent customer was far from being a usual pizza order they called Highlands County Sheriff’s Office to look into the situation. Candy Hamilton who has been working at the restaurant for 28 years confessed that she had never seen something like this before and would have never seen anything similar come through.
A hostage negotiator from the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, Lieutenant Curtis Ludden was the first one who arrived at the hostage’s home. He explained what happened when he arrived there:
“She comes running toward us but two kids are still in the house with a person who’s on narcotics and you don’t know how their mindset — with a knife — and we need to get them out of the house.”
The man holding the knife was Treadway’s boyfriend, Ethan Nickerson. Treadway related that she had been arguing with her boyfriend all day long. It seems that earlier on Tuesday Nickerson took the woman’s cellphone and refused to let her pick up the children from school alone so he went together with her. When they returned home Treadway managed to convince her boyfriend to let her use the phone so as to order pizza. Afterwards she returned the phone to man.
After the police got to the house they managed to capture Nickerson 20 minutes later without any incidents. The man was arrested and charged with battery, aggravated assault with a weapon without intention to kill, obstructing justice by preventing communication with law enforcement and false imprisonment.
Chief Deputy Mark Schrader gave credit to Treadway for the quick thinking and to Lieutenant Curtis Ludden, Sergeant Dave Stewart and Deputies Chad Douberley and Robert Livesay for their prompt response. They all contributed to bring a potential violent situation to a peaceful outcome.