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Cornelius News

After revelations from stepdad’s trial, Madalina’s mother officially named ‘suspect’ in disappearance

June 27. By Mark Washburn. Diana Cojocari, mother of missing Madalina Cojocari, has been publicly named an official suspect in the disappearance by Cornelius Police.

“She’s always been under suspicion,” Jennifer L. Thompson, Cornelius deputy police chief, said Thursday. “She’s her mother and no one has seen her since Nov. 21, 2022.”

Diana Cojocari


Madalina, who vanished over Thanksgiving 2022 at age 11, was not reported missing for weeks until a concerned counselor at Bailey Middle School got Cojocari to come to the school to explain her daughter’s absences.

Cojocari could not give police a cogent explanation of Madalina’s whereabouts and was charged with failing to report the disappearance of a child. She was released in May after pleading guilty to the felony charge and sentenced to time served after 17 months in the Mecklenburg County Jail.

Cojocari, 39, returned to Cornelius and the home she shared with her husband, Christopher Palmiter. He has filed for divorce, and she was served with the official papers Tuesday evening.

Her name is on the legal deed with Palmiter’s for the house in the Victoria Bay neighborhood where they lived with Madalina. She has been seen around the neighborhood and in local stores since her release.

Palmiter, 62, was also charged with failure to report a missing child and was convicted June 1. He was sentenced to time served and 30 months of probation.

Wedding Jan. 9, 2016

Since Cojocari and Palmiter were confronted by police in December 2022, no sign of Madalina has been found.

Though both Cojocari and Palmiter were questioned repeatedly by authorities and their home and computer devices were searched, it is the first time the department put a formal label of suspicion on the mother.

Revelations at the trial

Cornelius Police have released little information on 18-month search, not unusual in such a high-profile case because it could impede the investigation. But in Palmiter’s trial, some new facts emerged during testimony about the backstory of the case:

– Palmiter met Cojocari, who lived in the Eastern European nation of Moldova, through an Internet website and they struck up a romance by email. She became pregnant by a man in Moldova during the slow courtship with Palmiter, but eventually he proposed and she came to the United States. They married a few weeks later, in January 2016, in Winston-Salem when Madalina was 3. Their union was never consummated, he said, and Cojocari slept in a separate room.

– When authorities searched the house, they noticed that there was a carpet pad on the floor of Cojocari’s room, but no rug.

Trip to Niagara Falls

– There were about a dozen cats living in the house, often relieving themselves at will. After Palmiter and Cojocari were jailed, Palmiter’s brother Matthew from South Carolina came up to leave food for the cats. He changed the locks and set up a security camera in the house after noticing evidence of a possible intruder. On the camera, he testified, he saw what appeared to be Cojocari’s mother and two others going through the house on March 20, 2023.

— Around the time of Madalina’s disappearance, the couple burned up a sofa and a mattress in their backyard. Palmiter said it wasn’t unusual to have to burn things that the cats had soiled.

– Palmiter found that Cojocari had burned the pictures of Madalina that had been in the house after the girl disappeared. She burned other things, he said, including non-flammable metal objects, in the backyard fire pit.

– Cojocari lapsed into religious zealotry around 2021, staying up late into the night loudly chanting prayers. In the autumn of 2022, she became increasingly unhinged, believing that she was being stalked by Russian President Vladimir Putin and rock star Michael Jackson, who died in 2009.

– In the weeks after Madalina’s disappearance, Cojocari wired thousands of dollars to a Moldovan priest and to her own mother in Moldova, a former Soviet bloc satellite and considered the poorest nation in Europe.

– In the same time period, Cojocari made repeated trips to the North Carolina mountains. Automated license plate readers and other clues traced her to Hickory, Hot Springs, Boone, Madison County and the Pigeon Forge, Tenn., area.

Madalina Cojocari

– When police searched Cojocari’s purse, they found $8,100 in cash wrapped in aluminum foil.

Deportation possible

Palmiter maintained that Cojocari wouldn’t explain to him where Madalina had gone, and he believed his wife sent her off with one of her relatives for reasons unknown.

Cornelius Police, working with the State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, have interviewed hundreds of people. Police say the investigation has been international in nature.

Cojocari could face deportation as a result of the felony conviction, but such proceedings are rarely swift and many last for years.

She received a green card from immigration authorities enabling her to work in the United States, though she has never held a job since arriving. Thompson said she does not know whether Cojocari’s passport has been returned to her.

FBI poster for Madalina


One Response to “After revelations from stepdad’s trial, Madalina’s mother officially named ‘suspect’ in disappearance”

  1. Just following the case as a concerned citizen I have to believe there were at least 3 red flags
    that could indicate that a case could be made for endangering the welfare of a child & child negligence. They would or could indicate the 2 suspects were unfit to be custodial parents. People can draw their own conclusions but here are the facts as I know them.

    1. burning a sofa and mattress in a residential area, which is also illegal. 

    2. living with 12 cats with urine and feces infestation creates an unsanitary condition & also can trigger a severe human disease called toxoplasmosis.

    3. excessive school absences. 

    Posted by Rob F. | June 29, 2024, 9:29 am

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