San Diego

Unconfirmed Tips Lead Family of Missing Woman Lateche Norris to Post Flyers in OB

Lateche Norris last spoke to her mother on Nov. 5 and was reported missing Nov. 9.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Unconfirmed sightings of missing woman Lateche Norris in the Ocean Beach area led family members there Wednesday to post flyers and hunt for tips.

Norris, who is from Indiana, was last seen in San Diego Nov. 4, is considered at-risk by San Diego Police Department investigators as of Nov. 30.

“I’m hoping there’s, I don’t know, some scenario that I haven’t fathomed, and she’s safe and we’ll keep going until we find her,” Norris' mother Cheryl Walker said.

A missing woman from Indiana is now considered “at-risk,” San Diego law enforcement says. The woman’s mother speaks to NBC 7 on the alarming situation.

Walker said it’s been bittersweet having the support from people across the country, even from Gabby Petito’s family, who Walker said have reached out to offer support.

SDPD said Tuesday that Norris was being considered at risk "based on the totality of the circumstances, including the length of time Norris has been missing and the absence of anyone reporting verifiable contact with her."

SDPD is asking for the public's help finding Norris. They said her boyfriend, Joseph Smith, is not considered a suspect.

“Nobody’s considered a suspect because right now, there’s no evidence to indicate that there’s criminal activity," Lt. Adam Sharki said. "Now, that may change, if the evidence or statements or information leads in that direction.”

NBC 7's Mark Mullen hears from the missing woman's mother.

Walker traveled to San Diego along with Norris' father and step-father over the Thanksgiving holiday to look for Norris. She told NBC 7 Norris seemed frantic last time they spoke and said she feared her daughter is "in over her head."

"She’s a good human," Walker said describing Norris. The mother and daughter last spoke over the phone Nov. 5. "She’s not afraid of hardly anything, which is scary for us at times like these. She’ll be the one to track the bullies down. She’s not worried.”

Norris came to San Diego to help Smith after he left a rehab facility and was forced into living on the street, according to Walker. The couple had a disagreement before Walker's last conversation with her daughter, and Walker says there have been domestic violence incidents in the past.

NBC 7's Allie Raffa explains how people in San Diego are banding together to search for the woman.

Norris was last seen at a 7-Eleven store at 222 Park Blvd. on Nov. 4, and last spoke to her mother on the phone the following day.

“She definitely would have called me back," Walker said. Norris had to abruptly end their last conversation but told Walker she'd call again.

Walker said she filed a missing person report with SDPD Nov. 9. For three weeks, SDPD investigators didn't consider Norris At-risk, though her mother and others involved in the search for Norris disagreed.

Walker said she got a ransom demand phone call that she later realized was fake. She was unhappy with SDPD's response when she brought it to their attention.

She said she wasn't able to reach the Missing Persons Unit to tell investigators about the call, so she contacted dispatchers. Walker said dispatchers told her they couldn't help, and that she would have to leave a voicemail with the MPU.

"That sent me through the roof. I said, ‘For a ransom demand for my missing daughter, you want me to leave a voicemail?’ I had left five voicemails. It had been four or five days before I heard from anyone," Walker said. So, she called the FBI.

“I couldn’t even process the logic there," she said.

Walker worries history could repeat itself.

"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?" Walker said.

She said she doesn't want to unfairly implicate Smith, who she said has a criminal record that includes arson and vandalism, but said he's not answering calls or messages despite being active on social media. NBC 7 also reached out to Norris' boyfriend and hasn't heard back.

In an interview with NBC's NBC's "Dateline", Walker said she was afraid she'd never see her daughter again.

Whitney Sich, founder of the nonprofit Voice for the Voiceless, was coordinating local search parties before Norris' parents got into town.

"Walker, who's on her way to California right now, she's on a plane, she messaged me and said, 'I need help, please help me.' So I created a Facebook page with her," Sich told NBC 7 on Wednesday.

Sich also doesn't agree with SDPD's assessment that Norris isn't at risk.

"She doesn't have money. The person that she was supposed to be dependent on probably left her stranded somewhere and she doesn't have a phone, so I don't know why law enforcement is saying that she's not at risk," Sich said.

Walker said Norris came to San Diego with only a backpack full of clothes. Norris' phone died before her last conversation with Walker, who she called from a stranger's phone, Walker said.

Earlier this year, Norris followed Smith to Santa Cruz, California, but went back home to Indiana after just two months.

Walker describes Norris as 5 feet 8 inches tall and around 160 pounds with dark brown hair and eyes.

Walker told Dateline Norris sent a photo on the night of Nov. 4 and she was wearing black leggings, a black sweatshirt, black and white tennis shoes, and was carrying a black and white checkered backpack. She has a tattoo of an arrow on her left forearm, a 7-inch blade on her right calf, a dreamcatcher on her left shoulder blade and unknown words on her knuckles.

Anyone with information about Norris' or Smith's whereabouts is asked to call the MPU at (619)-531-2446 and reference case number 21-501043, or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

Contact Us