‘Not going to stop until we find her’

by NEW YORK DIGITAL NEWS



A preteen North Carolina girl has been missing for over a year since she was last seen getting off a school bus in her hometown of Cornelius, just north of Charlotte, Nov. 21, 2022.

“It’s hard to believe that a year has already passed since she was last seen getting off the school bus,” Cornelius Police Chief David Baucom told Fox News Digital. “And … in just a few short weeks is the anniversary of when our investigation actually began.”

Madalina Cojocari’s mother and stepfather, Diana Cojocari and Christopher Palmiter, did not report the 11-year-old girl missing to police until weeks later on Dec. 15, 2022, despite telling police the last time they saw their daughter was at home the evening of Nov. 23, 2022.

Baucom, who hosted a town meeting to remember Madalina Tuesday, said the weeks-long delay in reporting Madalina’s disappearance initially hindered his department’s investigation.

“It slowed [the investigation] down initially,” Baucom said. “We spent a lot of time trying to go back through the records we had available early on and (tried to) find her that way. And then … we had to, of course, obtain search warrants and start looking at other records, trying to find other avenues to locate her.”

Madalina Cojocari was last seen getting off a school bus in her hometown of Cornelius, just north of Cha
Cornelius Police Department

Leads have taken authorities from the Charlotte area to the mountains of western North Carolina.

“We’re not going to stop until we find her,” the police chief said.

The police chief added that, over the course of his career in law enforcement, he has never seen a missing person case “of this magnitude.” 

Christopher Palmiter, the stepfather of Madalina Cojocari, did not report the 11-year-old girl missing to police until weeks later on Dec. 15, 2022.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office and Cornelius Police Department

“We may have someone who’s missing for two hours or four hours or maybe a day or so. But, normally, that’s because they just forgot to tell a family member they were going somewhere, or their cellphone was dead or something like that. But nothing along the lines of this case,” he said. 

Circumstances of Madalina’s disappearance

Cojocari, who is originally from Moldovia, told school officials and Cornelius Police she hadn’t seen her daughter, a 6th-grader at Bailey Middle School, since she went to her bedroom the night of Nov. 23, 2022, around 10 p.m. after she and her husband, Christopher Palmiter, got into an argument, court documents state.

On Nov. 24, 2022, Palmiter drove to his relatives’ home in Michigan “to recover some items” after an argument with his wife. Cojocari went into her daughter’s room around 11:30 a.m. that morning to discover the 11-year-old was gone. 

A police chief said over the course of their career in law enforcement, they have never seen a missing person case “of this magnitude” and emphasized how huge Madalina Cojocari’s missing person’s case is.  
Cornelius Police Department

When Palmiter returned home to Cornelius Nov. 26, Cojocari apparently asked him where their daughter was. And Palmiter allegedly asked her the same question in return, according to an affidavit.

Soon after reporting Madalina missing last year, her parents penned a handwritten note expressing their concern for the missing 11-year-old, which the CPD shared with the public Dec. 22.

“Madalina is a beautiful, smart, kind and loving 11-year-old girl with greatness in her future,” the family wrote. “We are desperate to find her right now, she needs all of our help.”

Arrests

Both parents were arrested for failing to report a missing child. Palmiter was released in August after posting bond while Cojocari remains in custody at the Mecklenburg County Jail. 

“That’s part of our judicial process,” Baucom said of Palmiter’s release. “That’s an opportunity that everyone who is criminally charged has to receive a bond … because everyone in the end is still innocent till proven guilty.”

Bus surveillance footage shows Madalina Cojocari getting off her school bus in Cornelius.
FBI Charlotte

‘Smuggling’ allegations

Cornelius authorities last year asked the public for “firsthand eyewitness information from anyone” who may have spotted Cojocari’s light green Toyota Prius in the Madison County area between Nov. 22, 2022, and Dec. 15.

Madison County is a rural area near Asheville situated in the Appalachian Mountains.

In an August interview with local news outlet WCNC, Rodica Cojocari, Madalina’s grandmother and the mother of Diana, said through a translator her “granddaughter is alive, but she’s been kidnapped.”

Rodica, who hails from Moldova, proceeded to accuse Palmiter of trafficking Diana and Madalina for $5 million.

Search warrants unsealed earlier this year suggest Diana and Rodica contacted a distant relative asking if he would help in “smuggling” Diana and Madalina from their Cornelius home, just north of Charlotte, before Madalina disappeared, according to phone records obtained by the Cornelius Police Department.

“She told him she was in a bad relationship with co-defendant Christopher Palmiter and wanted a divorce,” the warrant states.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about Madalina’s whereabouts to contact the CPD at 704-892-7773.



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