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Cornelius News

Jury selection begins Wednesday for Palmiter trial

May 21. By Mark Washburn. An attorney for the stepfather of missing Cornelius teenager Madalina Cojocari was frustrated Tuesday when motions he made demanding more evidence from prosecutors were denied.

Brandon Roseman, attorney for Christopher Palmiter, argued that much of the evidence taken in the investigation of Madalina Cojocari’s 2022 disappearance has not been delivered to the defense.

But Superior Court Judge Matt Osman denied the request because Palmiter is not charged in the girl’s disappearance but merely with failure to report her missing to law enforcement.


As a result, Osman said, the defense is not entitled to investigative materials directly involved in the ongoing search for the girl.

Roseman had argued that it was impossible to know how the redacted information might affect his client’s case.

But Austin Butler, the assistant district attorney on the case, said that sharing such details still had a potential to impair the search for Madalina, which continues.

He said that the case would focus on a parent’s failure to report the disappearance of a child, but noted the central mystery of the case would not be solved.

“We’re not going to find out where Madalina is,” he said.

Sitting in court listening to arguments were Cornelius Police officers Det. Gina Patterson, the lead investigator on the case, Deputy Chief Jennifer Thompson and Det. Brad Nichols.

Disappeared in 2022

Madalina Cojocari

Madalina, a sixth-grader at Bailey Middle School, has not been seen since Nov. 21, 2022, when she got off the school bus in her Victoria Bay neighborhood for Thanksgiving break.

When she failed to return to school after the holiday, a school counselor inquired about her whereabouts and her parents admitted they had not seen her in three weeks. They were arrested and charged with failure to report a missing child.

Diana Cojocari, the girl’s mother, pleaded guilty to the charge this week and was sentenced to time served in the Mecklenburg County Jail, the 17 months she’d spent there since her arrest. Palmiter bonded out of jail after eight months.

Cojocari was released from jail on Tuesday. She faces possible deportation for the conviction, a minor felony.

D Cojocari

No other charges have been brought in the case, which has transfixed the region. No concrete trace of the missing teenager has been found.

Public anger toward stepfather

While Osman had ruled that cameras could be in the courtroom for the trial, Roseman said Tuesday that he regretted not opposing the motion after talking to Palmiter.

Such media attention has been focused on the case, Roseman said, that he feels his client may be in jeopardy if his face is shown in trial coverage.

“It places him in a significant amount of danger,” Roseman said.

Osman refused to reverse the order allowing cameras, noting that Palmiter’s image had already been widely disseminated.

He did warn reporters about protecting the identity of jurors.

Jury selection Wednesday

Jury selection will begin Wednesday morning.

Osman said that potential jurors will be screened to find out whether they have been exposed to media coverage about the case and whether they can be fair and impartial as a result.

Madalina’s home in Victoria Bay

“This is one of the more publicized trials here in recent memory,” Osman said.

Motion denied

In the motion that was denied Tuesday, Roseman complained that the state was not handing over information in the case in a timely manner.

In one instance, it said that an FBI interview with Diana Cojocari’s cousin Octavian Cebanu disclosed that Cojocari had contacted him in an attempt to leave her husband. It said that it appeared that Diana Cojocari was in a “conspiracy” with her mother, Rodica Cojocari, to leave the country.

Disclosure of the interview to the defense had only come on May 15, the motion said, not enough time to investigate thoroughly the statements before the trial.

According to the statement provided by prosecutors, the motion said, Cebanu’s interview appeared to confirm details that Palmiter had told police earlier about the possible whereabouts of Diana.

It said that Diana Cojocari believed she was in some sort of danger, not from Palmiter but a mysterious third party, and she wanted Cebanu to take her to some “safe place.”

“Diana reveals her delusional fears to Octavian,” the motion said, “and tells him that she has accumulated enough funds ‘to live off of for two or three months.’”

Phone logs of calls between Octavian and Diana Cojocari that showed extensive communication between Thanksgiving 2022 and the time Cojocari was arrested when Madalina’s disappearance was discovered were delivered to the defense only on May 14, the motion said.

It was also revealed in the motion that Diana Cojocari was “sending large sums of money out of the country” through Western Union wire transfers.

A list of information that prosecutors have not provided to the defense included:

– Results of Google search warrants.

Missing Madalina: Last independent sighting Nov. 21, 2022 on CMS bus

– Results of the search of Diana Cojocari and Palmiter’s computers.
– Results of a T-Mobile search warrant.
– Results of search and examinations of Diana Cojocari’s and Palmiter’s cars, including GPS devices.
– Results of examinations of computer hard drives found at the couple’s Cornelius home.

“It is the defense’s belief from the State’s prior representations that the motivation for not providing complete discovery was primarily due to the sensitive nature of the information with regards to spoliation of evidence and the timing of the release of such information, given the search … is ongoing and providing the information could compromise the investigation,” the motion said.

But it added that the defense could not see how providing the entire investigative file now, a year and a half later, would harm the search.


“Instead, the defense has been waiting in a vacuum getting bits and pieces,” the motion said, “and unable to conceptualize, formulate and perform the steps necessary to present a competent defense in court.”

FBI poster for Madalina