Mother of Madalina Cojocari pleads guilty, stepfather heading to trial

Posted at 9:41 AM, May 21, 2024 and last updated 1:25 PM, May 22, 2024

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. (Court TV) – The mother of a missing North Carolina girl has changed her plea while the child’s stepfather heads to trial.

On Monday, Diana Cojocari pleaded guilty to a charge of failure to report a missing child to law enforcement. Diana’s daughter, Madalina Cojocari, has been missing since Nov. 2022. She was 11 years old when she disappeared.

combo photo of Diana and Madalina Cojocari

(L) Diana Cojocari (Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office), (R) Madalina Cojocari (Cornelius Police Dept.)

Diana and her husband, Christopher Palmiter, were arrested two days after Madalina was reported missing to a school resource officer. Madalina was last seen getting off a school bus on Nov. 21. Diana waited nearly one month before reporting the child missing on Dec. 15. At the time of their arrest, both defendants pleaded not guilty.

According to an arrest report, Diana told the SRO she last saw Madalina on Nov. 23 when she went to bed. That same night, Diana and Palmiter got into an argument, “and the next morning, he drove to his family house in Michigan to recover some items.” She noticed Madalina was gone around 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 24.

When Palmiter returned home on Nov. 26, neither claimed to know where Madalina was. According to the report, the couple spoke “several times about Madalina’s whereabouts over the next three weeks,” but neither knew where the child was or contacted police.

The report also states Diana told a detective “she believed her husband put her family in danger but did not know what happened Madalina.”

Last July, unsealed search warrants revealed Diana believed her husband may’ve given Madalina away for money. Diana made the statement during a recorded jail phone call with her mother, during which “the women discuss a bag with money, withdrawing cash, and a theory that Chris gave the girl away for money.”

In Aug., Diana’s mother told WCNC, “My granddaughter is alive, but she’s been kidnapped.” Rodica Cojocari accused Palmiter of selling Diana and Madalina to traffickers for $5 million.

Diana’s guilty plea was not part of a plea deal, according to court documents obtained by Court TV. After pleading guilty, a judge sentenced her to six to 17 months in prison, reported WSOC-TV. She was credited time served and released Tuesday.

The judge also told Diana she is likely to be deported upon her release. According to WCNC-TV, Diana is from Moldova and is in the country on a green card.

Palmiter’s trial was scheduled to begin Monday but has been delayed while another trial takes place in the courtroom where his case will be tried.