Lateche Norris, a 20-year-old aspiring tattoo artist, went missing in southern California early this month after flying there to search for her boyfriend.
Now, her mother Cheryl Walker is calling on the public to help track her down.
Lateche Norris Vanished After Emotional Phone Call
According to her mom, Lateche Norris flew to San Diego from her home in Indiana on Nov. 1 to be with her boyfriend, 25-year-old Joey Smith, who had recently been released from an inpatient drug rehab in the city.
Walker said her daughter’s boyfriend was homeless in San Diego after checking out of the clinic.
On Nov. 4, her mother said, Norris and her boyfriend had an argument. The 20-year-old was last seen that day by an acquaintance at a 7-11 near the city’s downtown.
The couple seemed to have parted ways following the argument, because on Nov. 5, Walker said her daughter called her on a stranger’s cellphone saying that she couldn’t find Smith. She told her mother she needed the 25-year-old’s phone number so she could call him from the stranger’s cell and reunite with him.
“I let her go so she could call him, and I say ‘You call me back! I love you,’” her mother said. “The last words my daughter said were, ‘I will, Momma, I promise I love you more.’”
Walker said she hasn’t heard from her daughter or Smith since.
Cheryl Walker: Police Aren’t Helping
Walker said she filed a missing persons report for her daughter with the San Diego Police Department, which authorities have confirmed.
But the Indiana mom claims police aren’t taking the case seriously. She said authorities told her they “see this all the time” and don’t believe Norris is “at-risk.” Walker disagrees.
“My daughter would never go this long without contacting us,” she told CBS 8. “She would never not call back, especially given the conversation we had on the 5th […] Do I think [Norris and Smith] just out gallivanting around together? Absolutely not.”
San Diego police confirmed to the local outlet that they don’t believe Norris is in danger.
“SDPD is not considering her at-risk at this time,” wrote Lt. Adam Sharki in an email Monday. “Anyone who has information should call SDPD or Crime Stoppers.”
Her mother has since created a Facebook page to help track down Norris, but the lack of interest from officials and the broader public in her daughter’s disappearance is disheartening, she said.
“My daughter is just as important as Gabby Petito,” Walker wrote in a post on the page. “As if what happened to that sweet girl wasn’t heartbreaking enough.”
The concerned mom has since flown to San Diego to lead the search herself.
Mother Sees ‘Red Flags’ In Daughter’s Relationship
Walker said she’s seriously concerned for her daughter’s well-being, in part because of her troubled relationship with Joey Smith.
“There’s been a few incidences of domestic violence between the two,” said the mom. “It’s very concerning to me now because there’s a lot of red flags that were popping up that we maybe should have paid a little bit more attention to before.”
She said her daughter met Smith earlier this year, and that the couple spent the summer living together in Santa Cruz, hundreds of miles north of San Diego.
But after two months, Norris and Smith moved back to Indiana. They were both arrested on Sept. 28 on charges stemming from a domestic dispute, according to local reports. It’s not clear when Smith went back to California to check-in to rehab, but Walker said her daughter wanted to be with him as soon as he was released — even if that meant living on the streets.
“My daughter followed a troubled man out here that she loves, her spirit is a force to be reckoned with,” she told reporters.
“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.