Video shows Madalina Cojocari, then 11 years old, getting off the school bus on Nov. 21, 2022. That’s the last time anyone outside her family saw her. More than three weeks went by before Madalina’s mother reported her missing.

Police in Cornelius, North Carolina, say they continue to investigate what happened to the girl. The FBI is also investigating. 

What You Need To Know

  •  Madalina Cojocari was 11 when she was last seen on Nov. 21, 2022

  •  Her mother did not report her missing for weeks after she said she last saw Madalina

  •  The mother and stepfather both face charges of failing to report the disappearance of a child

  • Police in Cornelius, N.C., and the FBI say they continue to investigate

Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, 38, has been held in the Mecklenburg County Detention Center since Dec. 17 on a charge of failure to report the disappearance of a child. The girl’s stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, 61, was arrested on the same day on the same charge. He was released on bond in August, jail records show.

Madalina Cojocari is now 12 years old. (FBI)

Town officials in Cornelius are hosting a gathering Tuesday to honor Madalina and mark the anniversary of her disappearance. The event will be at the Cornelius Town Hall at 6:30 p.m.

The FBI said it recently put new billboards up across North Carolina to help with the search for Madalina.

The investigation has spread across state lines and internationally to Romania and Moldova, where Madalina and her mother are from. Investigators have found connections with drug smugglers, according to warrants in the case. But in a year, there has been no sign of Madalina.

The case

Police and the FBI have not given many details about the investigation. But it does not appear that Madalina’s mother or stepfather have cooperated with investigators.

School bus video was the last confirmed sighting of Madalina. Her mother said she last saw Madalina on Nov. 23, but did not report her missing until Dec. 15. 

Madalina’s school sent a guidance counselor to the house on Dec. 12 to find out why the sixth grader had not been in class, according to police. No one answered the door, but Diana Cojocari went to the school three days later and reported Madalina missing. 

“Diana Cojocari said she and her husband, Christopher Palmiter, argued that night and the next morning he drove to his family’s house in Michigan to recover some items,” police said in an affidavit. That was Nov. 23.

The mother told police she looked in Madalina's room at about 11:30 a.m. the next day but the girl was gone. Some clothes and a backpack were gone too, according to investigators. 

Diana Cojocari said she waited for her husband to return Nov. 26 to ask if he knew where Madalina was, police said.

“Christopher Palmiter did not and asked the same question in return,” investigators said.

“Detectives asked Diana Cojocari why she waited to report Madalina missing, and she stated that she was worried it might start a ‘conflict’ between her and Christopher Palmiter,” the affidavit states.

A sign in front of town hall in Cornelius, North Carolina. (Spectrum News 1/Charles Duncan)

The mother told investigators that her family in Moldova said she should call the police, according to warrants filed in the case. She never did.

The search warrants said Palmiter told investigators that he had not seen the girl for a week before he left to drive to Michigan.

Search warrants released earlier this year say Diana Cojocari asked someone described as a “distant relative” for help to get her and her daughter away from Palmiter. 

Police talked to that relative, the warrant shows. “He stated that Diana Cojocari and her mother asked him if he would assist Diana with ‘smuggling’ her and Madalina Cojocari away from the residence,” the search warrant states.

A search of Diana Cojocari’s car in February found passports for the mother and daughter along with work and education documents, according to the warrant. 

The man “stated that she told him she was in a bad relationship with co-defendant, Christopher Palmiter, and wanted a divorce,” the warrant said.

Diana Cojocari had a long phone call with the relative Dec. 2, according to the warrant. That was after Madalina was last seen at school but before she was reported missing. 

“In reviewing this subject’s phone records, there was multiple calls to phone numbers belonging to unidentified targets involved in ongoing T3 drug/narcotic trafficking investigations,” the warrant states.

The search for Madalina, now 12, continues.