Nothing solves your problems quite like ordering a piping hot pizza pie. Hungry? Order a few slices with extra cheese! Need to feed the family but the kids are picky eaters? The local pizzeria is on speed dial. Had a bad day and need to drown the sorrow in cheese, bread, and grease? You get the idea.
One woman from Avon Park, Florida, recently learned ordering a pizza can solve another of life’s problems — one far more serious than hunger. When her boyfriend threatened her, she diffused the life-or-death situation with a bizarre yet clever tactic: she opened up the pizza app on her phone…
On a warm spring day in May 2015, Cheryl Treadway realized her boyfriend had lost his mind. Understanding hit her when, after arguing all morning long, Ethan Nickerson pulled a large knife on her.
The couple’s three young children were at school when the 26-year-old grabbed the blade and confiscated his long-time girlfriend’s cellphone. He kept Cheryl locked up tight — so she started thinking of ways to escape.
Without her cellphone, she couldn’t call the police, and screaming for help, she knew, would likely not have the results she wanted. So she appealed to Ethan’s sense of fatherhood: she had to pick the kids up from school.
Ethan agreed. But, he insisted, she couldn’t go alone, which was why he accompanied her to the elementary school to pick the kids up. They all rode home, probably in silence, the kids in the backseat unaware their father had just pulled a knife on mom.
Back at home, Cheryl was in an even worse place than she started. Not only was she stuck with knife-wielding Ethan, but now her three kids were, too. She couldn’t pick them up and run — but what could she do?
Cheryl thought hard, knowing the costs of a misstep. And then an idea hit her. She found Ethan and, once again, appealed to his fatherhood. “The kids are hungry,” she said. “Let’s order a pizza. Let’s get them some food.”
Ethan considered this for a moment. Maybe he felt a rumble in his own stomach, but he agreed. The kids were hungry. Pizza would do the trick. He relented and let Cheryl use her cellphone — but only to order a pizza through the Pizza Hut app.
Cheryl had her phone back, but she couldn’t call the police. What if he heard her talking? What if he checked her call history? Would he snap and use the knife he kept on his person? She had to be clever. So she was.
See, when you ordered a pizza through Pizza Hut’s phone app, there was a comment section to include special instructions — you could ask for extra pepperoni or leave a door code for your apartment. Cheryl used this to her advantage.
Along with an order of a large pepperoni pizza, Cheryl included a note to employees in the comments section. It read, “Please help. Get 911 to me. 911hostage help!” She placed her order, closed her eyes, and waited. That was all she could do.
Meanwhile, employees at the local Pizza Hut gathered around the computer aggregating online and app orders, all fixated on Cheryl’s message: Please help. In 28 years on the job, restaurant manager Candy Hamilton had never seen anything like it.
Inside her home, meanwhile, Cheryl waited by the window, watching. She didn’t know if her message was well-received at the Pizza Hut. The feeling of dread must’ve been palpable. What if they thought her call was a joke? A prank?
But because Cheryl frequently ordered from that Pizza Hut, the employees recognized her name. They knew this was no joke. “We didn’t even question it,” Candy, below, said. “We immediately called 9-1-1.”
The call reached the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, which dispatched Lieutenant Curtis Ludden and his deputies to the home of Cheryl Treadway and Ethan Nickerson. They parked their cruisers out front.
The relief Cheryl felt as the police arrived must’ve been euphoric. But still, she had three children to escort from the home before Ethan noticed the police. If he did, would he put that knife to use? Salvation was so close, but only if she played this smart.
Highlands County Sheriff’s Office / Facebook
With her youngest child in her arms, Cheryl wrenched open the front doors, running for the police. Before she could catch her breath, she told Lt. Ludden, below, that her other two kids were stuck in the house with a knife-wielding Ethan.
Though she didn’t know it at the time, Cheryl was incredibly lucky. You see, Lt. Ludden happened to be the lead negotiator on the crisis team. He’d talked down any number of people in his career. Ethan, he knew, would be another tally mark.
The deputies escorted Cheryl to safety, and Lt. Ludden went to work on Ethan. After 20 minutes, the lieutenant convinced him to drop his knife and surrender. Officers recovered the other two children unharmed. Cheryl and her kids were finally safe.
Afterward, Lt. Ludden celebrated Cheryl’s smarts. “I don’t know if I ever would have thought of it,” he said. “I mean it’s just something that she did so naturally. The boyfriend never knew about it until he saw us coming around the corner.”
Candy — the manager of the Pizza Hut — praised the mother, too. She’s “the hero in this situation.” For a mother, nothing is more important than the safety of their children. And you can bet that when their kids are in danger, moms would do anything to ensure they’re okay.
Which is exactly what happened when this mom’s maternal instincts were put to the ultimate test. Semantha and Paul Bunce were a happily married couple from North Carolina who had two small children. They may have been young, but they were committed to each other and their growing family.
Paul Bunce / Facebook
Though she was only 21, Semantha had accomplished quite a bit. She also served as a combat medic for the National Guard as part of Raeford, North Carolina’s HHC 105th Engineer Battalion.
As prepared as she was, Semantha could have never expected what would happen to her one seemingly ordinary day in November 2015, while she was spending time at home with her four-month-old son, Bentley.
The young mother was alone at home with her infant son while Paul worked and their daughter was at school. Little did Semantha know that an afternoon that had begun like any other would quickly turn into a crisis.
The Bunce Family / GoFundMe
Semantha had been breastfeeding Bentley when, suddenly, she heard a noise. Before she could react, burglars—who were armed with guns—forcefully knocked down her front door.
That would be enough to make just about anyone freeze with fear. Yet at that moment, Semantha’s maternal instincts—and Army training—kicked in, and she did something the intruders couldn’t have expected…
The Bunce Family / gofundme
Semantha first needed to get out of harm’s way—and fast. With Bentley in her arms, she bolted upstairs to her bedroom. It was a good first move, but she knew that hiding could only protect them for so long…
Desperate times called for desperate measures. Once in the bedroom, Semantha retrieved Paul’s gun. While she was lucky to have some sort of protection—plus the appropriate military training—no mother would ever want to be in this position.
trezaei / YouTube
Unfortunately, the intruders were not deterred—and they started shooting at Semantha and Bentley from the stairwell. Semantha was left with no choice. That’s when she fired back from the bedroom door.
Al Stevens / Wikimedia Commons
Thankfully, the violent, terrifying shootout was cut mercifully short when the mother’s returning fire apparently scared off the intruders, leading them to ultimately run away from the house.
Unfortunately, while Bentley was fine, Semantha didn’t escape unscathed. Not only did her home suffer serious damage, but she was severely wounded—she’d gotten shot not once, but twice.
Thankfully, Semantha’s injuries weren’t life-threatening—though she still had to go into recovery. Moreover, besides the physical and emotional pain, the medical bills put an enormous financial burden on the family.
Paul Bunce / Facebook
Fortunately, Semantha’s comrades weren’t going to let her down. Hollie Ritchie, a friend of her—and a fellow soldier in the HHC 105th Engineer Battalion—set up a GoFundMe page to help the Bunces pay their growing medical bills and for damage to the house.
Though the goal was only $15,000, the campaign ultimately raised more than $66,000 from people all over the United States—some of them complete strangers—who wanted to help this heroic mother and her family.
The Bunce Family / GoFundMe
Countless folks, especially those who knew her, were impressed by Semantha’s fighting spirit. “To know that I know somebody that is that strong-willed and that much of a fighter is unbelievable,” Hollie wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Semantha Hunter-Bunce / Facebook
Soon after the incident, news outlets all over the United States were asking an emotional Semantha to share her story. They couldn’t believe that a vulnerable mother would be able to ward off burglars the way she did. Still, it didn’t come as much of a surprise to the friends and family closest to her…
“She is an amazing person, mother, wife, friend and soldier,” Hollie continued on the GoFundMe page. “Would do anything for anyone and would quite literally give you the shirt off of her back if you needed it.”
This story had another happy ending, too, as justice was served. One of the intruders, 23-year-old Reco Latur Dawkins Jr., turned himself in to the authorities. He faced breaking and entering charges, as well as attempted murder.
Perhaps most importantly, though, was that baby Bentley didn’t even get a scratch. He’d be able to enjoy his childhood and have a long and happy life ahead of him… and he’ll have his brave, quick-thinking mother to thank for it.
Semantha certainly had no way of knowing that something so traumatic would happen to her on such an ordinary day, but it was a relief that she knew just what to do to defend herself—and protect her child.