Entertainment And News

Gabby Petito’s Family Help A Concerned Mom Find Her Missing Daughter Alive One Month After Disappearing

Photo: Facebook
Lateche Norris

A 20-year-old from Indiana has been found nearly a month after her mother reported her missing. 

Lateche Norris flew to San Diego to see her boyfriend Joseph “Joey” Smith on Nov. 1 and did not made contact with her mother, Cheryl Walker, since a phone call that happened four days after she left.

In the call, which was made from an unknown number, Norris told her mother that she and Smith had fought “for hours” the night before.

As concerns were raised about Norris and her boyfriend, her case was compared to Gabby Petito's disappearance.

Norris has now been located by investigators who met with her in person not long after Petito's family publicized the case.

Her mother is reportedly on her way to San Diego to be reunited with her daughter. 

“Detectives also verified Norris was not and is not the victim of any crime,” said Lt. Adam Sharki, of the SDPD. “Ms. Norris thanked the public for their concern and asked for privacy.”

Before she was found, Norris was last seen with her boyfriend. 

Who is Lateche Norris's boyfriend, Joseph Smith?

During the summer of this year, Norris and Smith had lived together in an apartment complex on Riviera Street in California, near Santa Cruz.

RELATED: Missing 14-Year-Olds Jade Inniss & Izzy Kring Suspected To Be With 25-Year-Old Boyfriend

Smith, 25, was working construction for a contractor, who was paying for the couple’s apartment and providing them with a work truck.

Soon after they moved into their apartment, neighbors started to complain about the shouting and fighting that happened inside of the couple’s apartment.

The complaints eventually led to Norris and Smith moving out.

Lateche Norris's mother was concerned about her relationship.

In an interview with The Independent, Walker said that Smith had allegedly cut up Norris’s ID card, barred her from accessing her own social media accounts, and would withhold her phone for long periods of time.

"He can't just let her breathe! 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 Facebook post.

Norris’s mother said it was only after her daughter and Smith started dating when she discovered that he was the Aptos arsonist.

Smith was accused of vandalizing 16 cars with a baseball bat and setting three cars on fire in an Aptos neighborhood in California.

He was sentenced to serve one year in jail, complete a substance abuse program, and pay $37,000 in restitution back in 2016.

Before Norris had left for San Diego, Walker remembers overhearing her daughter’s boyfriend promising that after she arrived the two of them would “get a tent and stay on the beach for a few days” before starting his new construction job.

Lateche's final call to her mother raised concerns.

On November 1, Walker says her daughter called her from a stranger's phone and asked if she had heard from Smith. Walker had not.

Norris had promised to call her mother back, but the call never came, according to Walker’s Facebook post about her missing daughter.

"I will Momma, I promise, I love you more," is the last thing Norris said to her mother before hanging up.

Family and friends were unable to contact Norris or Smith. 

“I was very worried,” Walker says. “I allowed her a bit of time and now I regret that. I waited another four days before I called the police department.”

The San Diego Police Department declared Norris “at risk."

After Norris had been missing for several weeks, she was declared "at risk" but now has been found safe. 

The last sighting of Norris was outside of a 7-11 in San Diego on the night she called her mother on Nov. 4.

RELATED: Father Accused Of ‘Grooming’ 16-Year-Old Niece & Kidnapping Son In Custody After Kids Were Found

She had been wearing black leggings, a black sweatshirt, and was carrying a checkered backpack.

Norris has also tried to be a supporter for her boyfriend during his addiction to opiates, a former neighbor of the couple said.

Smith had reportedly been in and out of recovery and credited Norris for his survival.

Norris’s mother had flown to San Diego on Nov. 25 to distribute flyers in a desperate attempt to locate her daughter.

Gabby Petito's father shared Lateche Norris's story. 

Norris’s disappearance has started to garner national media attention, and is being compared to the Gabby Petito Case.

 Joe Petito shared a post on his Twitter urging people to help find Norris and bring her home safely.

“My daughter is just as important as Gabby Petito," Walker wrote on Facebook. 

She described Norris as an empathetic "ally" and "advocate" who cares more for helping people than for "prom or homecoming,” 

Despite the weeks that have gone by without word from her daughter or police, Walker still remains hopeful that Norris will be found alive and safe.

“I refuse to think the worst,” Walker said in an interview. “I fight that urge, I won’t allow it to make me become non-optimistic.”

On a GoFundMe page for her daughter, Walker commented about her daughter's safe discovery.

“I don’t have any further update at this moment but I wanted to let you all know ASAP that we did it,” she said. “All of us! Gonna take a moment to catch our breath! Thank you!!!!”

RELATED: If Gabby Petito Was A Person Of Color, Would Anyone Have Cared – Sadly, Probably Not

Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.