(WFLA News Channel 8)
Cheryl Treadway added a plea for help to her pizza order. (WFLA News Channel 8)

A desperate woman’s savvy thinking — and an order she placed at Pizza Hut — helped her and three children escape a potentially dangerous hostage situation, police say.

On Monday afternoon, the Pizza Hut in Avon Park, Fla., received an online order from a frequent customer for a large pepperoni pizza. But in the notes field of the order, Cheryl Treadway, who allegedly had been held hostage by her knife-wielding boyfriend, included a plea for help.

“911hostage help!” the receipt said, according to a copy of the document obtained by Tampa’s NBC affiliate, WFLA.

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Alarmed Pizza Hut employees called the sheriff’s office after noticing the message, police said.

“We’ve never seen that before,” store manager Candy Hamilton told WFLA. “I’ve been here 28 years and never, never seen nothing like that come through.”

A woman being held hostage along with her three children managed to foil her captor by including a plea for help with an order for pizza. (Reuters)

According to police, when they arrived at the home, Treadway and a young child greeted them at the door.

“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 their mindset with a knife, and we need to get them out,” said Lt. Curtis Ludden of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, according to WTSP.

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Treadway told them that her boyfriend, Ethan Earl Nickerson, refused to let her leave the home and that he was armed with a knife. Ludden said that deputies who responded to the call said that they think Nickerson was high on methamphetamine, according to WFLA.

Ethan Earl Nickerson (Highlands County Sheriff's Office) Ethan Earl Nickerson (Highlands County Sheriff’s Office)

Earlier in the day, the couple had argued while Nickerson threatened Treadway with a knife, according to police.

When it was time for Treadway to pick up her children from school, Nickerson took her phone and insisted on accompanying her, police said. When they returned, Treadway persuaded Nickerson to allow her to order a pizza, which ultimately brought police to the home.

When officers arrived, they took Treadway and one of the children to safety, but two other children were still in the home.

Nickerson had barricaded himself in the home, but Ludden persuaded him to surrender after about 20 minutes. He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a weapon without intent to kill, battery, false imprisonment and obstructing justice by depriving communication to law enforcement.

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“I don’t know if I ever would have thought of it. I mean, it’s just something that she did so naturally,” Ludden said of Treadway’s note, according to WFLA. “The boyfriend never knew about it until he saw us coming around the corner.”