Lateche Norris, a 20-year-old woman from Indiana, has been reported missing since November 5, 2021. She reportedly flew to San Diego to meet her boyfriend Joseph Smith on November 1.
Lateche made a “frantic” phone call to her mother, Cheryl Walker, and mentioned she fought with her boyfriend on the day of her disappearance. She also agreed to make a second phone call later in the day but did not contact her family.
Walker also tried to contact her daughter’s boyfriend, but he did not respond to calls and messages. The San Diego Police Department received a missing report for Lateche Norris on November 9.
However, her mother claimed that the police failed to make the necessary efforts to find her daughter. In an emotional Facebook post, Walker compared Lateche Norris’ case to the sensational Gabby Petito missing investigation:
“My daughter is just as important as Gabby Petito. As if what happened to that sweet girl wasn't heartbreaking enough.”
Nearly similar to Lateche Norris, YouTuber Gabby Petito went missing after leaving on a cross-country trip with her fiance Brian Laundrie. She was later discovered dead, leading to a month-long search investigation for her partner.
The case came to a close after Lundrie was also found dead several weeks after Petito. As per the authorities, Norris was last seen at a 7-eleven store near 222 Park Blvd on November 4, 2021.
A look into Lateche Norris' missing investigation
On November 1, Lateche Norris left Indiana to meet her boyfriend, Joseph Smith, in San Diego. Days later, she mysteriously called her mother Cheryl Walker from a stranger’s phone and said she was fighting with her partner.
She also asked her mother for Smith's number as she was reportedly trying to reach her boyfriend. Lateche did not explain the reason behind the fight or the mystery surrounding the call from a stranger’s phone.
However, she promised to call her mother later in the day but remained unavailable. Meanwhile, Lateche Norris' family tried to contact Smith, but he did not receive their calls even though he was active on social media.
After her last phone call, Walker filed a missing person’s report for her daughter after failing to connect with her. Speaking to Dateline, she said that her daughter never went without contact for more than a couple of days:
“I let her go so she could call him, and I say ‘You call me back! I love you. The last words my daughter said were, ‘I will, Momma, I promise I love you more.’ She definitely would have called me back. If her phone was dead, she would’ve found a way to charge it. Or call me from someone’s phone like that day.”
She also shared that Lateche Norris and Joseph Smith had a troubled relationship in the past. The couple were aspiring tattoo artists and initially settled in Santa Cruz over the summer. However, they experienced some trouble amid domestic violence allegations against Smith:
“We didn’t love the idea of Teche going so far away. But California was the dream for her - an Indiana girl’s dream. So she went.”
Cheryl Walker also mentioned that Smith had a criminal record of arson and vandalism. He was reportedly living on the streets after being released from rehab. She said that she regretted letting her daughter leave for San Diego to meet her boyfriend:
“We begged her not to go. I regret not stopping her.”
However, she also refuted claims on social media that suggested Lateche Norris was an addict and planned to be homeless:
“My daughter followed a troubled man out here that she loves, her spirit is a force to be reckoned with. I don’t care what anybody says, my daughter agreeing to rough it for a few days upon arriving here, does not mean she planned on being homeless. I know her, I’m not blind, and I’m not naïve. My daughter isn’t an addict, she isn’t a recovering addict.”
Walker also decided to fly to San Diego with her husband Amir Walker and Lateche’s grandfather Walter Omega Cullum in search of her missing daughter:
“We bought one-way tickets. I'll figure out the rest when we get there, but we're going to flip the city upside down looking for my daughter.”
She also claimed that the San Diego Police Department believed Lateche Norris was “not at risk” and ignored the red flags in the situation:
“How many times do we have to see a young girl go missing after fighting with her husband or boyfriend or significant other, and how often does it have to end in nothing positive, before we start taking this a little more serious?”
SDPD Spokesperson Lieutenant Adam Sharki told Dateline the case was active, but investigators lacked enough information at the time:
“We just don't have enough information at this point. We're still working to pinpoint the exact time and place she was last seen. Any tips are helpful at this point so we can piece it together.”
Lateche Norris is 5 feet 8 inches, weighing 160 lbs, with dark brown hair and eyes. She also has a couple of tattoos, including an arrow on her left forearm, a seven-inch blade on her right calf, a dreamcatcher on her left shoulder blade, and a few words across her knuckles.
Norris was believed to have been seen wearing a black sweatshirt, black leggings, white tennis shoes, and carrying a white and black checked backpack on the day of her disappearance. The San Diego Police Department has also asked for information and tips from the public to help conduct the investigation.