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Cornelius News

Mental illness will be raised in case of missing child

May 23. By Mark Washburn. Hints emerged Thursday about the defense strategy in the trial of Christopher Palmiter, the stepfather of a Cornelius girl who vanished around Thanksgiving 2022.

While interviewing potential jurors, Brandon Roseman, Palmiter’s attorney, told the pool, “The topic of mental illness will come up in the trial,” raising the possibility he might shift blame to his client’s estranged wife.

Roseman had earlier disclosed he subpoenaed Diana Cojocari, the girl’s biological mother, though it wasn’t clear whether she would testify. She is still under suspicion in her daughter’s disappearance and could plead the Fifth Amendment on the stand.


Cojocari pleaded guilty Monday to the same charge Palmiter faces – failure to report the disappearance of a child – and was released Wednesday after 17 months in jail on the basis of time served. Court fees, jail costs and attorney fees of $5,525 were dismissed.

At a bond hearing for Palmiter in August, Roseman explained that Cojocari had developed a bizarre fixation about a 401K account that Palmiter had opened in her name and began talking about being in danger from some unknown third party.

After raising the issue of mental illness, Roseman asked the potential jurors if they or someone they knew had mental health issues. Five mentioned relatives who had issues from alcoholism to psychosis.

D Cojocari


Madalina Cojocari hasn’t been seen since leaving Bailey Middle School for Thanksgiving break in 2022 when she was 11. After school authorities inquired about her long absence, Cojocari and Palmiter admitted in December 2022 they hadn’t seen her in three weeks and didn’t know her whereabouts.

Failure to report the disappearance of a child under 16 within 24 hours is a Class I felony in North Carolina, which carries a maximum two-year sentence.

Cojocari, 39, and Palmiter, 61, met online and married in 2017 when Madalina was 6. He has worked as a mechanical engineer at Davidson-based Ingersoll Rand. Cojocari is a native of Moldova, an impoverished Eastern European country and is in the United States on a green card. She faces possible deportation after pleading guilty to the felony charge.

Jury selection began Wednesday in the case and will continue beginning at 9:30 am Friday. Eight jurors have been approved by the prosecution and defense and four are yet to be seated as well as two alternates.

News reports cited

Missing: Madalina Cojocari

Media coverage has been the primary issue in screening jurors. Many said they were not familiar with the case of the missing girl, but others had vague to crisp memories of news reports.

Candidates from North Mecklenburg towns all knew of the case to varying degrees and all but one were dismissed.

One juror quits

As proceedings opened Thursday morning, a man already selected as a probable member of the panel rose and told the judge he just couldn’t do it.

His conscience, he said, would not allow him to serve on this trial. Superior Court Judge Matt Osman questioned him about his dilemma, but the man only answered in vague terms about his reluctance to serve.

Osman pressed for clarity, saying, “This sounds like someone trying to get out of jury service.”

No, the man said, he’d be willing to serve on another trial but when he woke up Thursday morning the weight of the responsibility hit him and he felt like he needed a session with a therapist.

Osman excused him, but ordered him to remain in the courtroom for the rest of the day to observe proceedings.

Too close to the case

One woman from North Mecklenburg was dismissed from the prospective pool after she told the court she had followed the case in the newspaper and was familiar with details of Madalina’s disappearance.

Osman said that her knowledge of the circumstances appeared too deep, and he felt more comfortable finding a juror with little or no familiarity with the case.

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

FBI poster for Madalina