SAN DIEGO — An Indiana woman who went missing in San Diego for four weeks never knew the world was searching for her, according to her stepfather, Amir Walker.
Lateche Norris, 20, and her boyfriend, Joey Smith, 25, were located Friday night, Dec. 3 at 9 p.m. near the downtown San Diego Central Library, after Norris borrowed a cell phone and texted her mother, Walker said. The couple met with San Diego police investigators on Saturday.
The couple apparently was oblivious to the nationwide search effort launched on social media and the news media.
Walker spoke publicly for two hours Sunday morning on a Twitter Spaces account hosted by user @Nerdy_Addict.
Norris “never knew that she went missing” the stepfather claimed during the online interview.
“Teche is choosing to stay homeless,” Walker said.
The online interview was conducted from Chula Vista, where the family is staying in a hotel. Walker said he was talking inside a vehicle in front of the hotel, without the knowledge of Norris or his wife, Cheryl Walker.
“When Cheryl finds out I’ve done this I might be in trouble,” the stepfather said.
The couple had been missing in San Diego since Nov. 5, when Norris called her mother and claimed she was separated from her boyfriend. Norris promised to call back but never did.
During Sunday’s interview on Twitter, the stepfather claimed the couple had been living in a makeshift shelter.
“Joey, he built them like a huge type of fort right there off of the highway,” he said.
Around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, the mother received a text from her daughter, Walker said, and they drove to the downtown library and reunited.
Walker said the family drove around ripping down missing person fliers that had been posted downtown, and then returned with Norris and Smith to the Chula Vista hotel room.
“I got some Jägermeister and some Red Bull and we had a few shots,” said Amir Walker.
Over the course of the four weeks the couple was missing, Cheryl Walker claimed her daughter was “at risk.” She said her daughter had never been out of touch with the family for more than four days.
“My daughter would never go this long without contacting us. She would never not call back, especially given the conversation we had on the 5th,” the mother told News 8 on November 29. “Do I think they're just out gallivanting around together? Absolutely not.”
Amir Walker said Sunday his stepdaughter had tried to reach her mother but the couple had smashed their cell phones, and Norris had been unable to borrow a phone to communicate with the family.
“Joey gets mad at Teche, he breaks her phone. Teche gets mad at Joey, Teche breaks Joey’s phone. It’s toxic. That’s not a smart thing to do,” Amir Walker admitted during the Twitter interview.
It’s unclear what the future holds for the couple. The stepfather said it looks like they want to stay in San Diego, for now.
“Joey is not going to move in with us. Teche does not want to come back home. She’d rather be homeless with Joey and go from the bottom up. That’s scary and admirable at the same time,” the stepfather said.
Walker also answered questions from the online community regarding a Gofundme page set up by Cheryl Walker to support the search effort. As of Sunday morning, the page had raised $7,200.
The mother posted Saturday on the Gofundme page that Norris had been found safe.
“I'm NO longer asking for donations of any kind! I'm not closing this campaign because the peanut gallery demands it... its [sic] here for those who want to give to her of free will to help her with anything she needs,” the mother’s post said.
On Saturday, SDPD met with Norris and her mother. A spokesperson put out the following statement to News 8 on Saturday evening:
"Missing person Lateche Norris has been located. San Diego Police Department investigators met with Norris in-person today and confirmed she is safe. Detectives also verified Norris was not and is not the victim of any crime. Ms. Norris thanked the public for their concern and asked for privacy. The San Diego Police Department thanks its public safety and community partners for their effort in locating Ms. Norris."
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