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North Carolina girl Madalina Cojocari missing for one year: ‘Not going to stop until we find her’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A preteen North Carolina girl has been missing for over a year since she was last seen getting off a school bus in her hometown of Cornelius, just north of Charlotte, Nov. 21, 2022.

“It’s hard to believe that a year has already passed since she was last seen getting off the school bus,” Cornelius Police Chief David Baucom told Fox News Digital. “And … in just a few short weeks is the anniversary of when our investigation actually began.”

Madalina Cojocari’s mother and stepfather, Diana Cojocari and Christopher Palmiter, did not report the 11-year-old girl missing to police until weeks later on Dec. 15, 2022, despite telling police the last time they saw their daughter was at home the evening of Nov. 23, 2022.

Baucom, who hosted a town meeting to remember Madalina Tuesday, said the weeks-long delay in reporting Madalina’s disappearance initially hindered his department’s investigation.

MADALINA COJOCARI: NORTH CAROLINA POLICE RELEASE NEW PHOTO OF 11-YEAR-OLD MISSING SINCE NOVEMBER

“It slowed [the investigation] down initially,” Baucom said. “We spent a lot of time trying to go back through the records we had available early on and (tried to) find her that way. And then … we had to, of course, obtain search warrants and start looking at other records, trying to find other avenues to locate her.”

Leads have taken authorities from the Charlotte area to the mountains of western North Carolina.

MISSING NORTH CAROLINA GIRL’S MOTHER WANTED TO SMUGGLE 11-YEAR-OLD FROM HOME: WARRANT

“We’re not going to stop until we find her,” the police chief said.

The police chief added that, over the course of his career in law enforcement, he has never seen a missing person case “of this magnitude.” 

MISSING MADALINA COJOCARI: TIMELINE OF NORTH CAROLINA GIRL’S DISAPPEARANCE THAT WENT UNREPROTED FOR WEEKS

“We may have someone who’s missing for two hours or four hours or maybe a day or so. But, normally, that’s because they just forgot to tell a family member they were going somewhere, or their cellphone was dead or something like that. But nothing along the lines of this case,” he said. 

Circumstances of Madalina’s disappearance

Cojocari, who is originally from Moldovia, told school officials and Cornelius Police she hadn’t seen her daughter, a 6th-grader at Bailey Middle School, since she went to her bedroom the night of Nov. 23, 2022, around 10 p.m. after she and her husband, Christopher Palmiter, got into an argument, court documents state.

Missing North Carolina girl Madalina Cojocari

Madalina Cojocari of Cornelius, N.C., was last seen around Nov. 23, 2022. (Cornelius Police Department)

On Nov. 24, 2022, Palmiter drove to his relatives’ home in Michigan “to recover some items” after an argument with his wife. Cojocari went into her daughter’s room around 11:30 a.m. that morning to discover the 11-year-old was gone. 

MADALINA COJOCARI’S PARENTS ‘HAD NO FRIENDS,’ WERE ‘QUIET’ DURING GROUP VACATIONS, ACQUAINTANCE SAYS

When Palmiter returned home to Cornelius Nov. 26, Cojocari apparently asked him where their daughter was. And Palmiter allegedly asked her the same question in return, according to an affidavit.

Madalina Cojocari in yellow dress, left; home in Cornelius, North Carolina, right

Madalina Cojocari was last seen in Cornelius, N.C., Nov. 21, 2022. (Google Maps/ Charlotte FBI)

Soon after reporting Madalina missing last year, her parents penned a handwritten note expressing their concern for the missing 11-year-old, which the CPD shared with the public Dec. 22.

MISSING MADALINA COJOCARI: NORTH CAROLINA POLICE ASK LOCALS TO ‘FLOOD THE AREA WITH HER PRECIOUS FACE’

“Madalina is a beautiful, smart, kind and loving 11-year-old girl with greatness in her future,” the family wrote. “We are desperate to find her right now, she needs all of our help.”

Arrests

Both parents were arrested for failing to report a missing child. Palmiter was released in August after posting bond while Cojocari remains in custody at the Mecklenburg County Jail. 

Christopher Palmiter, left and Diana Cojocari

In December, authorities arrested and charged the 11-year-old’s parents, Diana Cojocari and Christopher Palmiter, with failure to report a missing child to law enforcement after Madalina’s disappearance from her hometown in Cornelius, which is just north of Charlotte, around Nov. 23, 2022. (Mecklenburg County Detention Center)

“That’s part of our judicial process,” Baucom said of Palmiter’s release. “That’s an opportunity that everyone who is criminally charged has to receive a bond … because everyone in the end is still innocent till proven guilty.”

‘Smuggling’ allegations

Cornelius authorities last year asked the public for “firsthand eyewitness information from anyone” who may have spotted Cojocari’s light green Toyota Prius in the Madison County area between Nov. 22, 2022, and Dec. 15. Madison County is a rural area near Asheville situated in the Appalachian Mountains.

MADALINA COJOCARI’S GRANDMOTHER BELIEVES MISSING GIRL, 12, WAS TRAFFICKED FOR $5M: REPORT

In an August interview with local news outlet WCNC, Rodica Cojocari, Madalina’s grandmother and the mother of Diana, said through a translator her “granddaughter is alive, but she’s been kidnapped.”

family's handwritten message

Investigators on Thursday shared a handwritten, personal message from the family of Madalina Cojocari. (FBI Charlotte and Cornelius Police Department)

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Rodica, who hails from Moldova, proceeded to accuse Palmiter of trafficking Diana and Madalina for $5 million.

Search warrants unsealed earlier this year suggest Diana and Rodica contacted a distant relative asking if he would help in “smuggling” Diana and Madalina from their Cornelius home, just north of Charlotte, before Madalina disappeared, according to phone records obtained by the Cornelius Police Department.

“She told him she was in a bad relationship with co-defendant Christopher Palmiter and wanted a divorce,” the warrant states.

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Authorities are asking anyone with information about Madalina’s whereabouts to contact the CPD at 704-892-7773.

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