06/24/2024

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Madalina Cojocari: Missing Girl’s Mother Pleads Guilty to Not Reporting Disappearance; Stepdad’s Trial Begins Wednesday

Madalina Cojocari: Missing Girl’s Mother Pleads Guilty to Not Reporting Disappearance; Stepdad’s Trial Begins Wednesday

A North Carolina mother who has been held in jail since December 2022 pleaded guilty on Monday to not reporting the girl missing and is expected to be released from jail soon.

Diana Cojocari and her husband, Christopher Palmiter, were both charged with failing to report Madalina Cojocari missing, but Palmiter’s bond was lowered from $200,000 to $25,000, and he was released last August. Cojocari’s bail remained at $250,000.

The mother is likely to be deported to her native Moldova now that she has changed her plea, since she is not an American citizen, WCNC reported.

Madalina Cojocari, then 11, was last seen on November 21, 2022. Her mother reported her missing on December 15 after meeting with school officials about Madalina’s extensive absence from school.

Cojocari told detectives that she didn’t immediately report Madalina missing because she was concerned that Palmiter would put her family in danger and that it “might start a conflict” with him. Cojocari and Palmiter have both implied that the other was involved in the girl’s disappearance, but so far no solid information about her whereabouts has been uncovered.

Last July, Cornelius police obtained photographs of a girl resembling Madalina and an unidentified man in western North Carolina.

Christopher Palmiter and Diana Cojocari/Mecklenburg County Jail

Palmiter’s trial was expected to begin on Monday, but it was postponed until Tuesday while his attorney argues that the state has failed to disclose key evidence. He previously pleaded not guilty.

Court filings indicate that Madalina’s school records will be introduced at trial, and a computer forensics expert with the FBI is to testify. The filings also summarize an interview conducted by the FBI with an FBI language specialist with Cojocari’s cousin. In that interview, Cojocari reportedly told the cousin she was in danger from a third party — not Palmiter — and than she and her daughter needed to get to a safe place. The defense said it only received that summary last week.

According to the summary, the cousin had been in touch with Cojacari’s mother “who apparently engaged in a conspiracy with Diana to help Diana and Madalina flee the country.” Cojocari also reportedly told the cousin she was in a “bad relationship” with Palmiter and wanted to divorce him.

The state said it didn’t believe the summary was relevant to Palmiter’s case, but his attorneys argue that what the state believes is relevant to its prosecution “is not the determining factor of what may be relevant to presenting an adequate defense.” But, the defense said, it does not believe it was an intentional effort on prosecutors’ part to withhold evidence.

A judge denied three motions from the defense on Tuesday — for access to more evidence, to delay the case, and to dismiss the case — and ordered jury selection to begin on Wednesday, WSOC reported.

Cornelius Police and the FBI are still searching for Madalina Cojocari.

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[Featured image: Madalina Cojocari/Cornelius Police Department]