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TSA agents at Miami International Airport rescued a beaten and kidnapped woman over Independence Day weekend, as first reported by NBC 6, possibly saving her life.
When 25-year-old Nelkis Alvarez went through airport security to return home to New Jersey July 5, two TSA officers trained to pick up on behavioral cues noticed she seemed fearful and spotted severe bruises on her face, scratches on her body, and a rug burn on her shoulder.
After the agents asked Alvarez to step away from her traveling companions, she begged for help: "She told us they threatened to kill her if she told anybody," said Agent Ray Hernandez.
Alvarez's horrifying story unfolded when police arrived to detain the two men and two women with whom she had traveled to Miami for a weekend of fun. According to police, trouble began when Alvarez stayed behind in the group's North Miami hotel room while the others went to the beach.
When the group returned intoxicated, Alvarez said, 25-year-old Melissa Pineiro accused her of having a relationship with Pineiro's boyfriend. Pineiro allegedly straddled Alvarez on the hotel bed and punched her in the face before 19-year-old Tori Beato joined in the beating.
Though Alvarez was able to lock herself in the bathroom, she eventually exited only to be dragged across the floor, according to the police report. The two women threatened to kill her "for ruining their weekend," took all the money from her purse, ripped her jewelry off, and dragged her back into the hotel room when she attempted to escape.
After packing Alvarez's things among their own for the return flight, the group headed to a TD Bank branch on Biscayne Boulevard where Alvarez says Pineiro forced her to withdraw all the money in her account.
But once at the airport, the two TSA agents spotted Alvarez's injuries and Pineiro and Beato were arrested on kidnapping, robbery, false imprisonment, and battery charges. Beato was also charged with petit theft for taking money from Alvarez's purse; the two men, who had not involved themselves in the fight, were let go.
TSA director Mark Hadfield praised Hernandez and a second unnamed agent in an interview with NBC.
”In the course of their duty, they did what they were trained to do,” he said. “They saw stress, they saw fear, and it turned out that this woman was in really dire danger.”