Instead of gathering for Thanksgiving this week, a family in Indiana will be traveling across the country to search for their missing daughter.
Although Lateche Norris turned 20 years old in October, she never went more than a couple of days without speaking to her mom. So her unusual silence — now lasting a little more than two weeks — has her family worried.
“Something is wrong,” her mother Cheryl Walker told Dateline. “Now the days are just flying by with no word from her. And we’re terrified.”
Cheryl told Dateline that she last spoke to her daughter on the morning of November 5, 2021. Her daughter had called from a stranger’s phone explaining that she had been in a fight with her boyfriend and needed his number so she could call him. Cheryl added that she did not ask what happened to her daughter’s cell phone.
From the phone call, Cheryl gathered that Lateche had been at the 7-Eleven on 222 Park Boulevard, in San Diego, California, the night before their call. She told her mother she had been with her boyfriend when they got into a fight.
At the end of the call, Lateche told her mom she’d call her back. But she never did.
“She always called me back, always,” Cheryl said. “And she was very resourceful. If her phone was dead, she would’ve found a way to charge it. Or call me from someone’s phone like that day.”
Cheryl told Dateline that she was worried, but tried to remind herself that Lateche was an adult and to let her live her life.
She explained that Lateche had lived in Indiana her whole life until earlier this year. She had started learning to be a tattoo artist, which led her to meeting her boyfriend, who also did the same trade, along with construction.
This summer, the couple decided to move to California, where Lateche’s boyfriend grew up. The couple settled in Santa Cruz.
“We didn’t love the idea of Teche going so far away,” Cheryl said. “But California was the dream for her – an Indiana girl’s dream. So she went.”
After two months, Lateche returned home, but on Halloween weekend, she once more boarded a plane to fly across the country — this time to join her boyfriend in San Diego.
“We begged her not to go,” Cheryl said. “I regret not stopping her.”
After Lateche’s phone call to her mother on the morning of November 5, the family did everything they could think of to reach her. They didn’t know anyone else in San Diego and they said they were unable to get in touch with her boyfriend.
Dateline also attempted to reach out to Lateche’s boyfriend, but had not heard back as of Tuesday.
On November 10, the family filed a missing persons report with the San Diego Police Department. San Diego PD Spokesperson Lieutenant Adam Sharki told Dateline that Lateche’s case is an active and ongoing missing persons case, but they do not believe she is “at risk” at this time.
“We just don’t have enough information at this point,” Lt. Sharki said. “We’re still working to pinpoint the exact time and place she was last seen. Any tips are helpful at this point so we can piece it together.”
Lieutenant Sharki clarified that the 7-Eleven on Park Boulevard in San Diego is where they believe she was last spotted, but they are working to confirm other possible sightings around that time. He would not comment on whether or not her boyfriend was with her at the time.
“If the public has any information, or if you recognize her, give us a call and we’ll check it out,” he added. “Anything is helpful.”
Lateche’s mother Cheryl, her stepfather Amir Walker, and her father, Walter Omega Cullum, who are all in Indiana, say they feel helpless being so far away. So instead of gathering with their families for Thanksgiving this year, they are traveling to the West Coast.
“We bought one-way tickets,” Cheryl told Dateline. “I’ll figure out the rest when we get there, but we’re going to flip the city upside down looking for my daughter.”
She added that while they don’t know anyone in San Diego, with the help of a Facebook page created by the True Crime Sisters, the community has come together to hang posters and spread the news of Lateche’s disappearance.
“This isn’t a 20-year-old girl not calling her family because she’s busy or mad,” Cheryl said. “Something is wrong. This is not like her.”
Cheryl describes her daughter as her “mini me” and says they’ve always been really close. She added that Lateche has a kind heart, but is also street smart — taking a mechanics class in high school so she wouldn’t be taken advantage of at an auto body shop.
Cheryl told Dateline that she’s hoping by sharing her daughter’s story, someone will come forward with information that will lead them to her.
“As each day rolls by, I discover new crevices in my heart as they break,” she said. “I just need to get there and find my baby.”
Lateche is described as being 5’8” and weighs 160 lbs. She has dark brown/black hair and brown eyes.
Cheryl told Dateline her daughter’s boyfriend sent her a photo on the night of November 4 that showed Lateche wearing black leggings, a black sweatshirt, black with some white tennis shoes and carrying a black and white checkered backpack. She has several tattoos, including an arrow on her left forearm, a 7-inch blade on her right calf, a dreamcatcher on her left shoulder blade, unknown words on knuckles.
Anyone with information on Lateche’s whereabouts is asked to call the San Diego Police Department at (619)-531-2446 and reference case number 21-501043.