Lateche Norris loves the beach, and that’s what drew her to the West Coast over the summer. She left her family in Indiana to meet up with a California boyfriend named Joey she had met just months earlier.
Days after her arrival, she went missing. So her family is now here, too.
Cheryl Walker, Lateche Norris’ mother, has been going nonstop since arriving from Indiana more than a week ago, driving all over Southern California to look for her 20-year-old daughter and leaving in her trail new flyers all over many beach communities.
“I’m just going to keep going until she’s found,” Walker said. “I’m not gonna stop. I’m gonna get louder, I’m gonna keep going.”
Mother and daughter last spoke over three weeks ago, when Norris called from a stranger’s phone.
“She didn’t sound frantic but it was just, you know, but you could hear like when you’re kind of scared but you don’t want the person you’re talking to (to) know,” Walker said. “But you can hear it in their diaphragm.”
Her daughter had talked about a big argument with her boyfriend the night before and promised to call again later, and Walker now regrets not keeping her on the phone longer.
“She said, ‘I will, mama, I promise.’ I said, ‘I love you’ and she said ‘I love you more,’” Walker recalled. “And that was it. Nobody’s heard from her since.”
Days later, Walker reported her daughter missing to San Diego police, insisting her daughter might be in danger. The department did not respond to an interview request about the case, and has told the family Norris is not considered “at risk.”
Needless to say, that offered little solace to Walker.
“This is my child and nonprofit organizations and strangers are doing more than the people who get paid to do this and that, that’s tough.”
One of those organizations is A Voice for the Voiceless, whose founder, Whitney Sich, also questions the lack of urgency from police.
“She is at risk. She’s a female. She’s stranded. She had minimal resources,” Sich said. “She went out there to be with someone who doesn’t have the best track record; isn’t the most reliable person. We are concerned because he’s completely gone silent.”
Walker continues to reach out to that boyfriend, despite thus far receiving no response.
That, says Jennifer Coffindaffer, a former FBI agent, is the sticking point in this case. Speaking with NewsNation, Coffindaffer pointed to the boyfriend’s alleged history of addiction to fentanyl and heroin, the couple’s quasi-homeless situation and Norris’ lack of means of communication: She has no phone service, nor a computer.
In that regard, Norris is at risk, Coffindaffer told “NewsNation Prime.”
“We know that they were both arrested very recently for domestic violence assault,” Coffindaffer said. “And that there is an order not to see one another that has been issued. They have a court date in December, I believe, Dec. 21, in regard to this domestic violence situation. So, I actually very much would consider her in danger from the standpoint of this background of this domestic violence situation that she’s in.”
That does not mean, Coffindaffer stressed, that all is lost.
“They have beat cops that are going to be out there. There’s a case open, I saw. They definitely are looking. If we’ve learned anything from these cases, it’s that the FBI and law enforcement are not overt with what they’re doing in their investigation. They love the media involvement because the media puts the person’s face up there and circumstances so we can all be on the look. But they don’t like involvement in the particulars of what they’re doing.”
For now, returning to Indiana is out of the question for Walker.
“I can’t leave now because if I leave now, it’s going to get quiet, and I can’t. So, I have to stay until something happens. Hopefully, we can find her. If not, then I have to keep going until it gets big enough so someone else can, because I’m not gonna stop until then.”
Coffindaffer offers some words of encouragement.
“I would say to Cheryl, the mother of Norris, that there is investigation going on, if they can just be more patient. But this one’s going to be tricky.”
Walker is hoping someone can provide some information that will reunite her with the daughter she calls her “mini-me.” Anyone who has possibly seen Norris is encouraged to call Walker at 765-422-1600. Walker intends to investigate personally every tip she receives.