A 21-year-old hostess in upstate New York vanished last month after her shift. Now, as the FBI and state police investigate her disappearance, cops arrested the woman’s former stepfather on an alleged parole violation.
Noel Alkaramla was last seen on Nov. 22 around 10 p.m. after a coworker at Verdile’s Restaurant in Troy gave her a lift. The next day, a neighbor discovered Alkaramla’s ID, credit cards, and other documents scattered in the street, blocks from her home.
The Troy Police Department hasn’t named a suspect, but on Friday cops collared Alkaramla’s ex-stepdad, Johnny Oquendo. The 39-year-old is being held at the Rensselaer County jail, though police did not disclose how he violated parole.
Since Oquendo’s arrest, police divers have scoured the Hudson River on what authorities call a credible tip, the Albany Times Union reported. Authorities were still searching the Troy area—about 150 miles north of New York City—on Monday afternoon.
Cops declined to say what they were looking for but that searches would go on.
“Right now there is no timeline, they are going to continue to dive,” Troy police Capt. Daniel DeWolf told CBS 6 on Monday.
Sara Moore, Alkaramla’s roommate and girlfriend of six years, told The Daily Beast that Alkaramla planned to swing by Oquendo’s residence before coming home. Moore didn’t expect her to take off without a word.
“This is not her. She would never do this,” Moore told The Daily Beast. “It’s devastating. It’s completely destroyed me, and it’s devastating to my family. We just want her home, and we want answers.”
Moore said she and Alkaramla saw Oquendo frequently. Moore and Oquendo worked together at a Helmbold’s hot dog warehouse, and the couple would often stop by Oquendo’s house to visit and smoke.
Oquendo is a butcher, while Moore works in packaging, she said.
The grieving girlfriend said Oquendo had been texting Alkaramla before she went missing. He claimed he wanted to talk about something, Moore said. Alkaramla told Moore she feared Oquendo would rekindle his romance with her mom.
“That’s why she texted me, ‘I hope to God he doesn’t do what I think he’s going to do.’ She didn’t want them to get back together,” Moore told The Daily Beast.
Last month, after the hostess went missing, Alkaramla’s mother, Debra Napoli-Oquendo, told the Times Union she worried about her daughter’s mental health and said she had post-traumatic stress disorder from a 2001 fire that killed relatives.
With police running into dead ends, Napoli-Oquendo told the Times Union she was investigating the disappearance herself. Her daughter’s belongings were recovered in front of an abandoned, burned-out building, which contained a single room with a curtain, chair, table, ashtray, and cable hookup, she claimed.
“Something’s really wrong,” Napoli-Oquendo told the Times Union.
On Monday, the newspaper revealed another detail from Napoli-Oquendo’s interview: She worried Oquendo might have a hand in the disappearance.
Napoli-Oquendo did not return messages left by The Daily Beast.
Last week, the mom launched a GoFundMe page seeking $50,000 with the headline, “Help! My daughter is missing!”
“Noel has been missing since nov,22 15 no sign of her anywhere!” Napoli-Oquendo wrote. “I need money for travel and other expenses to find my daughter please everyone help!”
Napoli-Oquendo told the Times Union that she and her daughter moved to the area in 2005. The 53-year-old described herself as a disabled single mother. She said she recently moved to Malone, a town near the Canadian border.
Moore told The Daily Beast that Napoli-Oquendo met Johnny Oquendo about eight years ago while he was in prison. The couple wrote letters but Oquendo wasn’t in Alkaramla’s life until he was released.
Alkaramla stayed in touch with Oquendo after he and her mother split a year ago, according to Moore.
Oquendo was in prison on a conviction of first-degree robbery and second-degree assault. He was released in March 2014, records show.
Alkaramla, who is 5-foot-1 and about 135 pounds, was last seen wearing a white blouse, black dress pants, and a tan coat with a fur-trim hood.
“She is a sweetheart,” Moore told The Daily Beast. “She would do anything for anybody. She was a family girl. She never went out and partied.”
A manager at the Italian restaurant where Alkaramla worked told the Times Union she is quiet and sweet. “She wasn’t the type to hang around,” the employee said.
Moore said Alkaramla worked at a local Pizza Hut before landing a job at the eatery four months ago. In 2013, she was enrolled in the criminal investigations program at Hudson Valley Community College, the Times Union revealed.