Cops released surveillance video of a missing 20-year-old woman in 7-Eleven the day before she disappeared following a ‘frantic’ phone call to her mother saying she’d fought with her boyfriend.
The San Diego Police Department on Thursday released two clips showing Lateche Norris with her boyfriend Joseph ‘Joey’ Smith, 25, in the convenience store on November 4. She last spoke to her family on November 5.
Norris, from Indiana, flew to San Diego on November 1 to visit her boyfriend, who was in the West Coast city attending drug rehab for a heroin addiction, a former neighbor who chose to remain unidentified told CBS8.
Norris’ mother Cheryl Walker wrote in a Facebook post that her daughter agreed to ‘rough it’ a few days upon arriving in San Diego with her boyfriend and insisted that her daughter did not plan on being homeless.
‘She lands here November 1st, has multiple arguments upon arriving here…because he lied to her!’ Walker recalled.
Cops released surveillance video of missing 20-year-old woman Lateche Norris and her boyfriend Joseph ‘Joey’ Smith in 7-Eleven the day before they both disappeared following a ‘frantic’ phone call to Norris’ mother saying she’d fought with her boyfriend
The couple were last seen in public at the convenience store, located at 222 Park Blvd in downtown San Diego on November 4 around 11.25pm. Norris (left) was wearing a zippered black sweatshirt over a navy t-shirt and khaki pants while Smith (right) was in a black hoodie and sweatpants
Norris, from Indiana, left to visit her boyfriend (pictured together) days before last speaking to her family on the phone on November 5. Her social media activity stopped on the same day
She added: ‘I heard the picture he painted for her over the phone. “It’s so nice, we’ll get a tent and stay on the beach a few days” until he started his new construction job.’
However, Smith did not follow through and the couple’s former neighbor told CBS8: ‘He had been on Suboxone. It satisfied the opiate craving physically but you don’t get high.’
The prescription medication helps people overcome narcotic dependence but the neighbor told the local news station that the 25-year-old soon relapsed.
Then on November 4, Norris and Smith were seen wearing backpacks and black hoodies in the 7-Eleven located at 222 Park Blvd in downtown San Diego around 11.25pm.
Smith was seen speaking to the cashier but didn’t seem to make a purchase and left shortly after.
The couple haven’t been seen in public since and Walker said they had fought again that same day. ‘I got voicemails, texts and calls from both,’ she wrote on Facebook.
‘The next morning she calls me from a stranger’s phone,’ she explained – the last time she would hear from her daughter.
However, Norris didn’t say why she didn’t have access to her own phone, or tell her mother what the fight had been about.
The 20-year-old had promised her mother that she would call her back but she never did.
Norris’ family filed a missing persons report on November 9. That same day, Norris’ mother received a text message from an unknown number demanding ransom, according to Insider.
Norris’ father Walter Omega Cullum said that the text ‘was like, “If you want to see your daughter again, send me $7,000.”‘
Cullum recalled that Walker replied and asked for proof that Norris was safe and alive but received no answer.
The family let the San Diego Police Department know about the ransom note but the FBI reportedly said that it was ‘fake’.
‘What’s fake to you is real to other people,’ Cullum told Insider.
Public Information Officer at the department Adam Sharki told Insider: ‘What we need is more tips and leads that ultimately are going to lead us to her.’
On November 20 police said they considered Norris ‘at risk’ but said there was nothing to prove that she was the victim of a crime.
The young woman’s friends and family disagree with the department’s assertion.
Norris last spoke to her family on a stranger’s phone on November 5 after fighting with her ‘troubled’ boyfriend. However, Norris didn’t say why she didn’t have access to her own phone, or tell her mother what the fight had been about
Smith (pictured) and Norris reportedly wanted to be tattoo artists. Smith, 25, from Aptos, California, has a history of criminal convictions for arson, vandalism and possession of drugs, according to court records
Smith, from Aptos, California, has a history of criminal convictions for arson, vandalism and possession of drugs, according to court records.
‘They were super dysfunctional,’ the neighbor recalled but added: ‘Do I think Joey killed Lateche? No.
‘But do I think it’s his fault that she might be dead? Yes, because of his dark world and the dark places that she ended up because of her relationship with him.’
Walker flew to San Diego to search for Norris on November 25.
In her Facebook appeal she added: ‘My daughter is just as important as Gabby Petito,’ referencing the woman who went missing while on a road trip with her fiance Brian Launderie and was later found murdered.
‘As if what happened to that sweet girl wasn’t heartbreaking enough…the true tragedy is that you learned nothing from it that helps prevent this from happening again!’ the grieving mother said.
Petito’s father Joseph later tweeted Norris’ missing-person flyer urging people to help find her.
Smith, who also hasn’t been heard from since November 5, was ‘troubled’ and Walker said that he was nicknamed the ‘Los Aptos Arsonist’.
Speaking to local media, Walker said that the couple had fallen out before and claimed that there had been some instances of domestic violence in the past.
‘She definitely would have called me back,’ Walker said, adding that her daughter would never go more than a couple of days without getting in contact.
Norris’ mother Cheryl Walker (left with Norris) flew to San Diego to search for her missing daughter on November 25 and has criticized the San Diego Police Department for not doing enough
Petito’s father Joseph tweeted Norris’ missing-person flyer urging people to help find her (pictured) after Walker wrote in a Facebook appeal that her daughter is ‘just as important as Gabby Petito’
‘This is the guy who keeps breaking her phones! This is the guy who was making her commit to “phone free weekends” over the summer in Santa Cruz,’ Walker wrote in her lengthy Facebook post, although there is no evidence that Smith played a role in Norris’ disappearance.
The mother clarified that she did not want to unfairly implicate Smith but asked: ‘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 describes her daughter as 5 feet 8 inches tall and around 160 pounds with dark brown hair and eyes.
She also has a number of tattoos: An arrow on her left forearm, a seven-inch blade on her right calf, a dreamcatcher on her left shoulder blade and unknown words tattooed across her knuckles.
Lateche lived in Indiana her whole live until she moved to Santa Cruz earlier this year with Smith. They are both hoping to become tattoo artists.
Her mother said she moved back home to Indiana for two months before flying out to see Smith in San Diego just days before their last phone call.
‘We begged her not to go,’ Walker told NBC Dateline. ‘I regret not stopping her.’
In her Facebook post, Walker criticized the SDPD for not doing enough to find her daughter, writing: ‘[SDPD] chose to ignore the red flags and try to push a narrative that ‘we see this all the time.’
She told local media: ‘It feels like she’s in over her head… This isn’t a 20-year-old girl not calling her family because she’s busy or mad. Something is wrong.
‘This is not like her.’
Anyone with any information on Lateche Norris’ whereabouts is being encouraged to call the SDPD at 619-531-2446 and reference case number 21-501043.
‘If the public has any information, or if you recognize her, give us a call and we’ll check it out,’ Lieutenant Sharki said. ‘Anything is helpful.’