Missing North Carolina girl’s mother wanted to smuggle 11-year-old from home: warrant

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Missing North Carolina girl Madalina Cojocari‘s mother contacted a relative to help smuggle both her and her daughter from their Cornelius home before the 11-year-old disappeared, according to a search warrant.

Diana Cojocari, who is facing charges for failing to report her missing daughter in November 2022, and Diana’s mother – Madalina’s grandmother – contacted the “distant” relative asking if he would help in “smuggling” herself and Madalina from their home, 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.

Palmiter is also charged with failure to report a missing child. Both he and Diana were arrested in December.

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Diana’s relative’s phone had multiple “calls to phone numbers belonging to unidentified subjects involved in ongoing…drug/narcotics investigations.” according to the warrant.

“Persons associated with narcotics trafficking are also associated with human smuggling,” the warrant states.

Madalina’s disappearance was not made known to Cornelius police until Dec. 15, when Diana told school officials and local police that she had not seen her daughter since she went to her bedroom the night of Nov. 23 around 10 p.m. after she and her husband, Palmiter, got into an argument, court documents state.

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On Nov. 24, 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 that the 11-year-old was gone. 

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She waited three days, until Nov. 26, when her husband returned home to Cornelius, to ask whether he knew where Madalina was. Palmiter apparently asked her the same question in return, according to an affidavit.

When detectives asked Cojocari why she waited until Dec. 15 to report her daughter missing, the mother said “she was worried it might start a ‘conflict’ between her” and Palmiter. Cojocari is originally from Moldova, where Madalina was born.

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Security camera footage from a Cornelius school bus shows the girl exiting the bus Nov. 21 — the last day Madalina, a 6th grader, showed up for class at Bailey Middle School — around 5 p.m.

Cornelius authorities have 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 and Dec. 15. Madison County is a rural area near Asheville situated in the Appalachian Mountains.

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

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