Documents: Mother believes missing Madalina Cojocari given away for money

Posted at 6:56 AM, July 24, 2023 and last updated 12:45 PM, August 17, 2023


CORNELIUS, N.C. (Court TV) — Newly unsealed search warrants are offering new insight into the investigation into the disappearance of 12-year-old Madalina Cojocari.

Madalina Cojocari missing person photo

This undated photo provided by the Cornelius Police Department shows missing 11-year-old Madalina Cojocari. Cojocari was last seen Nov. 23. Her parents reported her missing Dec. 15. (Cornelius Police Department/FBI)

Madalina was last seen getting off the school bus on November 21, 2022, but was not reported missing for nearly one month, until December 15. Two days later, Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, and stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, were arrested on charges of failing to report her disappearance.

Investigators have now released a number of search warrants served in their investigation from December 2022 through March 2023. Search warrants that focused on the home where the family lived noted that an area in the kitchen was blocked with plywood. Palmiter told officers that the family had planned to make a separate apartment.

Search warrants delivered to Wells Fargo and Capital One requested copies of the couple’s financial records, citing a recorded jail phone call between Diana and her mother during which “the women discuss a bag with money, withdrawing cash, and a theory that Chris gave the girl away for money.” The warrants also reference a jail call between Palmiter, his brother and sister-in-law, during which he said that Diana had a lot of cash and he didn’t know where it came from, as well as referring to “financial stuff” coming up.

The search warrants are also offering a look at the timeline that investigators have pieced together surrounding Madalina’s disappearance.

  • 11/21/22: Madalina Cojocari is seen getting off her school bus in Cornelius, N.C.
  • 11/23/22: Diana Cojocari tells police this is the last time she saw Madalina, when she went to bed. That same night, she said that she got into an argument with Palmiter, and he drove to his family’s home in Michigan.
  • 11/26/22: Palmiter returns home from Michigan.
  • 12/2/22: Records show Diana sends a text, indicating she was with Madalina.
  • 12/3/22: Diana is seen at a service station getting an oil change. While children’s toys were visible in the car, witnesses said they did not see any child.
  • 12/4/22: Records show Diana said she was traveling towards the mountains in North Carolina to search for Madalina.
  • 12/15/22: Diana reports Madalina to her daughter’s school resource officer, after receiving a truancy notice from the school.
  • 12/16/22: A surveillance photo from the Sugar Mountain Police Department appears to show Octavian Cabanu (the family’s only blood relative in the United States) with Madalina.
Madalina Cojocari parents arrested

These Dec. 17, 2022 booking photo provided by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office shows Diana Cojocari (L) and Christopher Palmiter (R). Cojocari and Palmiter have been charged with failing to report 11-year-old Madalina Cojocari as missing. (Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office)

Diana previously told police that she did not know where Madalina was, but she believed her husband had put her family in danger.

Investigators also seized papers and writing from Palmiter’s cell, saying that he told a confidential informant who was housed with him that he had been “remembering the events regarding Madalina and was writing the recalled events down.”

The Cornelius Police Department said that it is continuing to actively search for Madalina, and said that while it has received tips on possible sightings across the country, “All tips were thoroughly investigated and determined not to be Madalina.”

The FBI has joined state and local police in searching for Madalina. Anyone who may have seen her or who has information about her disappearance is asked to contact the Cornelius Police Department at (704) 892-7773 or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.