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Ex-neighbor: Missing woman in 'dark world' of boyfriend’s drug addiction

Woman tried to help Lateche Norris & Joey Smith before they came to San Diego.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — We are learning more about a young woman from Indiana who came to San Diego three weeks ago to be with her boyfriend, and then went missing.

News 8 spoke to a former neighbor of the couple, who said Lateche Norris was trying to rescue her boyfriend from long-term drug addiction.

When Norris and her boyfriend, Joey Smith, moved into an apartment in Los Gatos in late July, Smith had been clean for a couple of months, according to the former neighbor who did not want to be identified.

“He has a heroin addiction and he had been on Suboxone. It helps heroin addicts recover from their addiction. It satisfies the opium craving physically but you don't get high,” said the ex-neighbor.

Smith grew up in nearby Aptos, where court records showed he has criminal convictions for arson, vandalism, and possession of drugs.

The neighbor said Smith, 25, relapsed shortly after moving in with Norris, who was age 19 at the time.

“When they moved out here, he got triggered and he started using again. He overdosed. The ambulance came. They gave him Narcan," said the ex-neighbor. "They just revived him and when he was okay, they left. And he was just sick, and he was throwing up and just really sick.” 

Lateche decided to go back home to Anderson, Indiana in early September. Joey quit his construction job and went with her.

“The night before they left, I had them over for dinner and he said, ‘I will be dead in that apartment without her.’ He couldn't live without her, so he walked away from this amazing job to go back to Indiana with her and be tattoo artists again,” the neighbor recalled.

Back in Anderson, Indiana police arrested both on domestic battery charges in late September. Friends and family said Smith flew to San Diego to enroll in drug rehab in mid-October. 

On November 1, Norris, by then age 20, flew out to San Diego to meet him.

Days later on November 5, they both went missing and haven’t been seen since.

“They were super dysfunctional. 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 she ended up because of her relationship with him. Trying to get him out, I think, they ended up in a very dangerous situation,” said the former neighbor. 

“I think that because they were in San Diego out of their area, they have no connections. I think that his drug addiction got him talking with people that were very shady. I think they're in trouble. I think that they've been victimized by someone or something and they need help.”

San Diego police said they have no evidence of criminal wronging related to the couple's disappearance.  

If you have seen Norris or Smith, call the San Diego Police Department Communications Division at 619-531-2000 and reference Case #21-501043.

WATCH RELATED: Mother of missing woman Lateche Norris, 20, searches in San Diego (November 2021)

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