Madalina Cojocari was 11 years old when she went missing in November 2022 from Cornelius, North Carolina.
According to the FBI , Madalina was last seen on surveillance video getting off her school bus outside her home in Cornelius, North Carolina, on November 21, 2022, and has not been seen since. She was reported missing to her school on December 15, 2022. Her parents reported last seeing her on November 23, 2022.
Madalina was living in Cornelius with her mother and stepfather, Diana Cojocari and Christopher Palmiter. I believe Madalina was born in Moldova and she moved with Diana to the US when she was a toddler. I have seen her birthdate listed as April 11, 2011.
As of November 2022, Diana was 37 and Christopher was 60.
The family are said to have been quiet and they mainly kept to themselves.
“Our friend who we know [the Cojocari family] through said that to us, like, they had no friends. That’s why they would come to this family-friend get-together. That was really one of their only social times,” Michele Clark Triscitti, one of Diana Cojocari’s 16 friends on Facebook, told Fox News Digital.
Diana was also described as “quiet” and “kind of on the outskirts” during the group vacation, which was organized by a big group of friends who were close with Christopher “years ago.”
“Nothing out of the norm. . . . Just more of a quiet, to-themselves kind of family. They did engage and talk and interact and have conversations with everyone — just more quiet.” .
Madalina seemed to be a typical child. “We’re pretty shocked. My son would play with Madalina every year when we would have these vacations. They would hang out and play and do kid things, so yeah, it’s pretty shocking,” Clark Triscitti said, adding that Madalina was “one hundred percent” a normal little girl, based on what she had observed during the group trips.
In terms of a timeline for Madalina’s case, Monday November 21, 2022 is the last day that anyone outside the family saw her.
Mrs D Lampkin who is a sixth-grade school counselor at Madalina’s school (Bailey Middle School in Cornelius) later told police that this was Madalina’s last recorded day at school.
There is also CCTV footage of Madalina getting off the school bus this day at 4.59pm
We will jump forward a little bit – Madalina was reported missing on December 15, 2022.
On December 12, 2022, Bailey Middle School Resource Officer J. Nobles and Mrs. D. Lampkin went to Madalina’s home because the child had not attended school since late November. Nobody answered the door and they left a truancy packet at the home.
The school counselor then called Diana on December 14, 2022 and asked to meet about Madalina and her truancy from school. Diana told the counselor that she would bring Madalina into the school the following day.
Diana arrived to the school on December 15 without Madalina, so the sixth-grade school counselor calls the school resource officer into the meeting. Diana told them that Madalina went missing on November 22 at noon. Diana later changed her story and said that she actually last saw Madalina on November 23 at 10 p.m.
After Madalina was reported missing, police went to her home for the first time on December 15.
When detectives arrived, they found that part of the kitchen was blocked off with plywood. Christopher told police he was building a separate apartment, per court documents.
Police got a search warrant and searched other parts of the home on that day.
They seized two phones at the time.
Once police started investigating, they put together a timeline of what happened after Madalina was last seen on CCTV on the bus.
On November 23, 2022, Christopher said he drove to Michigan to “pick up items.” He also told police that by that date, he hadn’t seen Madalina for a week.
November 23 is the day that Diana told police she noticed Madalina was missing.
Diana also told police that Christopher actually left for Michigan on November 24, not November 23 as per his story. She said the couple had argued the night before he left for Michigan.
Christopher returned home on November 26, 2022. He told police that when he got back, he asked Diana where Madalina was, and Diana said she didn’t know where she was. Christopher told authorities he told Diana he didn’t know where Madalina was either. They both reportedly accused each other of hiding Madalina. Despite not being able to find Madalina, neither adult reported her missing.
Christopher told police he asked Diana many times where Madalina was over the following weeks. Court documents say that he asked Diana if she had hidden Madalina and she would not give him a straight answer.
When police asked Diana why she did not report Madalina missing, she said that she was worried it would create conflict between her and Christopher.
Diana also told police that she contacted her family in Moldova about the situation and they advised her to contact the police. She told them that Christopher had put the family in danger. She also told police that Madalina did not have a phone and that a backpack and some clothes were missing from the house. She said that Madalina did not have any friends that she would have gone to stay with, and they had no close family in the country.
On November 30, 2022, officers said they were called to the couple’s home after a small fire was seen “burning between this address and the car wash.” A neighbor later told police that Diana was burning what turned out to be furniture in the backyard.
Police believe that at some point between November 22 and December 15, Diana drove her Prius to Madison County, North Carolina.
“In a text message on December 2, 2022, Diana Cojocari indicated she was in the presence of the missing child,” authorities wrote. “On December 4, 2022, Diana Cojocari traveled toward the NC mountains claiming to be searching for Madalina.”
Diana was seen at a service station in Hickory, North Carolina on December. 3, 2022. She was getting an oil change.
“The attendant verified that while children’s toys were inside the car, no minor child (Madalina) was present in the car,” court documents state.
On December 16, 2022, Sugar Mountain Police Department provided investigators with photos of a man and a female child. The child resembled Madalina and the man was identified as Octavian Cebanu. Octavian is a distant relative of Madalina and Diana.
This information was not made public until 2023 so we will come back to it, in keeping with the story being told chronologically.
Also on December 16, Christopher sent a text message via Facebook acknowledging the family was “in some kind of investigation.” He said Madalina was missing and the police took all of their electronics except for an old phone and his personal computer. Christopher said he believed the police overlooked the computer which Diana used to call her parents, the message states.
“We are in some kind of investigation, Madi is missing and the local police have taken all of our electronics luckily I have an old phone. Although they did not take my personal computer, probably because they overlooked it. Diana is using it now to call her parents.”
On December 17, 2022, Christopher and Diana were arrested and charged with failing to report the disappearance of a child.
Christopher appeared in court on December 19. His bond was set at $200,000. Diana appeared in court on December 20 and her bond was set at $250,000.
On December 21, police obtained a search warrant for the family home at 18413 Victoria Bay Drive in Cornelius.
On December 22, 2022, Madalina’s family released a statement.
On December 23, 2022, the FBI released new photos of Madalina.
“Earlier this week, we told you Madalina loves horses. You can see the pure joy she feels when she takes her plastic ponies to the beach,” an FBI Charlotte tweet accompanying the photos stated. “And she enjoys riding the real pony named Rayne.”
On December 28, 2022 Diana and Christopher were meant to appear in court. The judge announced there would not be a bond hearing for Madalina’s mother after all, but mentioned that she did surrender her passport. The judge said the state would take no action on the bond but added a condition that Christopher must surrender his passport too.
A lot of the info in this episode comes from the court documents, and they were initially released in January 2023. This info comes from WBTV about the documents being released.
Tuesday’s release comes after WBTV’s Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner went before the judge Friday asking her to make the search warrants public.
On Friday, WBTV learned that a total of six search warrants had been executed in relation to the case, but because the warrants were sealed, it was not clear what investigators were looking for or what they found.
Among the six warrants, one was issued for Madalina’s home where she lived with her mother and stepfather, another for her stepfather Christopher Palmiter’s phone, and another for the couples’ phone records.
In court, the state had argued that making this information public could negatively impact the search for Madalina.
The attorney said, “there is no amount of public interest in these documents that could outweigh the attempts to find this little girl.”
However, Ochsner said the public has a great interest in finding and knowing what’s happening in the search for an 11-year-old child. He also stated there is no evidence the release of the search warrants would prejudice a jury or the prosecution against either of the defendants—who are both behind bars.
He argued that if the court were to keep these details a secret, the public would speculate which is not helpful to the search for Madalina.
Ultimately, Judge Archie made three big decisions in court Friday: First, she would be unsealing the affidavit because she says the details are already public knowledge.
She unsealed certain parts of the search warrants, but just things the public already knows. She also redacted things like what items were returned to the family after the search was completed.
On January 11, 2023, a hard drive was seized from a company that was hired by Christopher back in 2021. Investigators took the hard drive with the intent of searching it for files, images, videos, emails and other information that could help find Madalina.
Diana’s car was searched in February 2023. “On Thursday, February 10, 2023, at 1350 hours the K-9 alerted on the driver’s side door of the vehicle, suspect Diana Cojocari’s vehicle,” the warrant said. “K-9 is trained to alert any and all narcotics. The dog was also alerted on the vehicle on Monday, February 13, 2023, when a search warrant for the vehicle was obtained.”
Several items were found inside the door, including a Moldova Agroindbank debit card belonging to Diana Cojocari; Madalina’s Romanian and Moldovan passports; Diana’s Romanian passport; and miscellaneous education and work certificates, according to the warrant.
On March 8, 2023, we learned more about Octavian Cebanu, the distant relative who was apparently seen with Madalina.
Investigators found that Diana had “extensive communication on December 2, 2022” with Octavian. Octavian’s phone records revealed “multiple calls to phone numbers belonging to unidentified targets involved in ongoing T3 drug/narcotic trafficking investigations.”
Diana also apparently asked Octavian if he could help smuggle them away from their home because she was in a bad relationship with her husband and wanted a divorce.
There was an alleged sighting of Madalina at a Lowe’s Foods in Linville, NC on December 16 but this was found not to be Madalina.
April 11, 2023 marked Madalina’s 12th birthday. “Our goal is to find Madalina,” David Baucom, the chief of the Cornelius Police Department, said on that day
On April 14, 2023, Diana was found to be in possession of a baggie with white powder in it, while in prison. She was charged with possession of a controlled substance.
A test concluded that the powder was a cocaine and fentanyl-based substance. Diana claimed she had found the bag in the shower.
On July 6, jail records show that the drug charge against Diana had been “dismissed without leave by the District Attorney’s Office.”
Some articles say that the substance was sent for testing and it was determined that the powder was not a controlled substance, while others say the charge was dropped due to insufficient evidence.
On July 10, a tip came in that Madalina had been seen at a gas station in California.
A user in the Find Madalina Cojocari Facebook group said she was driving to Susanville, California, on July 5 when she stopped at a Valero gas station in Weaverville. She spotted a young girl there who asked for a ride “up north.” The poster said the girl looked a lot like Madalina.
On July 18, 2023, documents were released regarding a phone conversation between Diana and her mother, made while Diana was in jail.
During the call, they discussed ‘a bag of money, withdrawing cash, and a theory that Christopher gave Madalina away for money.’
In another recorded jail call between Christopher, his brother and his sister-in-law, he mentioned that Diana had ‘a lot of cash with her’ and he did not know where it came from. In the recorded call, Christopher said there is ‘financial stuff’ coming up, and his brother tells him not to worry about the financial stuff.
On August 17, 2023, Diana and Christopher both pleaded not guilty to their charges regarding Madalina’s disappearance. Christopher was granted a secured $25,000 bond with electronic monitoring and pre-trial supervision. Diana was not granted bail.
Brandon Roseman, Christopher’s attorney, says his client has cooperated with police and believes Diana is hiding her daughter away.
“He told police on several occasions that he believes that Diana had taken Madalina somewhere into the mountains,” Roseman said. “He told detectives specifically that he believes Diana took her somewhere and that she is safe.”
Christoper says Diana believed that he was putting Madalina in danger by naming her as a beneficiary on an investment account.
“In these interviews he gave to police, he’s adamant that he does not believe Diana harmed Madalina. He believes that Diana fervently believes that Madalina is in danger from some unknown third party, apparently related to him placing money and assigning benefits to her in a 401K account, something that doesn’t make any sense,” Roseman said.
Rodica Cojocari, Madalina’s grandmother, spoke to the media in August 2023 and said that she believed Christopher had trafficked the child for money.
“My granddaughter is alive, but she’s been kidnapped,” Rodica Cojocari told WCNC Charlotte’s Lexi Wilson.
Rodica believes Diana and Madalina were sold to traffickers for $5 million.
“Chris Palmiter is the instrument,” Rodica Cojocari said. “He stalked them for two years. They had no documents in his home. He stole their documents and held them in the home … like prisoners.”
“Lately, he would use narcotics to make them sleep, both Madalina and Diana” Rodica said.. “He used these narcotics in their juice. Diana and Madalina drank it, and he took Madalina out of the bedroom and gave her over to traffickers. I don’t know to whom.”
When asked why Madalina had not been found yet, Rodica said she believes the child had to undergo plastic surgery to disguise her appearance.
“He says he doesn’t know anything, but it’s not true,” Rodica insisted. “Our Madalina is alive, and Diana was warned that ‘if you tell police anything, I will kill you.’ Chris knows who he sold our granddaughter to … but he is involved with criminals.”
It is titled : Madalina Cojocari: New theories emerge in case of missing NC girl
NewsNation traveled to the mountains of Western North Carolina to investigate a possible sighting of Madalina, the description matching her and a male relative.
On Dec. 16, 2022, a woman reported seeing a girl resembling Madalina with a male companion at a Lowes grocery store in Sugar Mountain, North Carolina.
“There was a possible sighting at the Lowes Foods here in Sugar Mountain. We were able to track down video-still footage of that and forwarded that to Cornelius,” said Sugar Mountain Police Department Chief Casey Turbyfill.
Police said the sighting, along with another one in California, did not turn out to be Madalina.
Madalina weighed approximately 90 pounds and was last seen wearing jeans, pink, purple and white Adidas shoes, and a white t-shirt and jacket.
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