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Cornelius News

At milestone birthday, Cornelius Police reiterate dedication to find missing teen


Deputy Chief Jennifer Thompson reads cards sent to Madalina Cojocari from the community for the girl’s 13th birthday Thursday night at Cornelius Town Hall.

April 12. By Mark Washburn. Cornelius Police said Thursday that they remain fully committed in the case of missing teen Madalina Cojocari, who vanished in 2022.

“This has been a difficult case for us,” said David Baucom, chief of the force. “It’s gone on a long time.”

He spoke at a gathering at Cornelius City Hall marking the 13th birthday of the missing Bailey Middle School student, who vanished Nov. 21, 2022, three days before Thanksgiving.

The sign on the Cain Center for the Arts marked Madalina Cojocari’s 13th birthday.

Police had invited the community to come mark the milestone of Madalina’s birthday Thursday, but a tornado threat at the last moment appeared to limit attendance to about a dozen citizens and a dozen reporters and photographers.


Paul Turbedsky, who was Cornelius Police chaplain only three months when the case originated, offered a prayer for the missing girl, noting afterward they were marking a somber occasion, one bereft of the fun sleepovers or science projects common for those of Madalina’s age.

A 13th birthday, said Turbedsky, who is on the staff of Grace Covenant Church, is a milestone for any child.

“Today’s birthday is not much of a celebration,” he said. “It is a call that Madalina’s still out there, and a call to hope.”

Major Jennifer Thompson, the department’s No. 2 in command, read about a dozen birthday greetings addressed to Madalina that police had solicited from the community for Thursday’s observance.

“Every young lady deserves to feel like a princess on her birthday,” went the first, Thompson’s voice cracking for an instant.

“Especially a beautiful and sweet strong girl like you.”

It was signed by Jasmine Stewart, who attended last year’s birthday vigil with her son, a Bailey Middle student.

Another, signed Dave and Diana Rochester: “We are praying you are safe, comfortable and happy.”

Police said they are continuing to pursue the case as vigorously as they have from the beginning.

Joining local police are the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.

In the 17 months since Madalina’s disappearance, the case has attracted widespread attention and taken bizarre twists as her parents have failed to explain where she went and allegations of trafficking have emerged.


Suspicions first arose in mid-December 2022 when a Bailey Middle School sixth-grade guidance counselor contacted Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, to say the girl hadn’t been in school since Thanksgiving and asked where she was.

Cojocari told authorities she had not seen Madalina since Nov. 23, two days after she got off the school bus and the first day of Thanksgiving break.

Cojacari stated that Madalina went to bed that Tuesday night and had vanished when she next looked for her, late on Wednesday morning.


A quarrel and a trip

She told authorities that she had quarreled that Tuesday night with her husband, Christopher Palmiter, and he left the next morning to drive to Michigan, where he used to live, to pick up some belongings.

After the Michigan trip, Palmiter returned to their Cornelius home Nov. 26, 2022, two days after Thanksgiving. Cojocari told authorities that she then asked Palmiter if he knew where Madalina was; she said he replied that he didn’t and asked whether she knew.

Cojocari, 39, is a native of Moldova, a former Soviet republic in Eastern Europe bordered by Ukraine and Romania and generally considered the poorest nation in Europe. She holds a Romanian passport; Madalina holds a passport for Moldova and Romania. Both passports were later found in a search of Cojocari’s car.


Cojocari and Palmiter were arrested Dec. 17, charged with failure to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement, a Class I felony punishable by up to two years of prison. Palmiter is free on bond and Cojocari remains in custody at the Mecklenburg County Jail.

Among the cards read at the Thursday vigil was one from Cornelius Mayor Woody Washam.

“We are a small community,” he wrote, “and it has affected us greatly.”

Do you have info?

If you have information about the disappearance of Madalina Cojocari, call Cornelius detectives at 704-892-7773.