The mother of a missing 11-year-old girl told police she did not report her disappearance for almost three weeks because she feared how her husband – the girl’s stepfather – would react to the news.
Madalina Cojocari was last seen on November 21 leaving a school bus, and vanished on November 23, her mother Diana Cojocari said.
On the day of her disappearance Cojocari, 37, had argued with her husband Christopher Palmiter, 60, and Palmiter drove in anger that evening to Michigan.
Three days later, on November 26, Palmiter returned home to North Carolina and Cojocari told him that the young girl was missing from the house in Cornelius, a town just north of Charlotte.
Madalina Cojocari’s mother says she last saw her on November 23 – three weeks days before reporting her missing to her school
Madalina’s mother Diana Cojocari (left), 36, and stepfather Christopher Palmiter, 60, were arrested on December 17. Cojocari claims she last saw her daughter at 10pm on November 23, Palmiter thinks he didn’t see her for a full week before making a trip to Michigan on November 24
But she did not report the little girl’s disappearance until nearly three weeks later, on December 15, because she feared Palmiter’s reaction.
Police investigating the case noted that the kitchen in the family home had an area blocked with plywood, Queen City News reported. Palmiter said that he had been building a separate apartment.
Palmiter told police he last saw Madalina a week before she disappeared.
Cojocari said that Madalina’s backpack and some of her clothes were missing from the home.
She told police that the young girl did not have any friends that she would stay with, and being from Moldova, she did not have any family in the area.
Cojocari added that she had been in touch with family in Moldova, who advised her to go to the police – but she resisted their pleas.
It is unclear how long Cojocari and her daughter have been living in the United States, and when she married Palmiter.
Both Cojocari and Palmiter were arrested and charged with failure to report a missing child.
The FBI are now leading a search, and a spokesman said ‘there’s nothing we won’t do to find’ her.
On Tuesday the FBI worked with Cornelius police to start searching the nearby lake
Madalina was last seen exiting a school bus at her stop on November 21, police say
‘As part of the normal investigative process, we are expanding our search area outside of the home where Madalina was last seen and that now includes Lake Cornelius,’ the police department said on Tuesday.
Court officials said during her first court appearance on Tuesday that Cojocari had ‘hindered the investigation’ so far.
They said she had only ‘begrudgingly’ reported her daughter’s disappearance to the police.
Despite a number calls from her school in the following weeks, no one was notified that Madalina was missing.
On December 12 a school resource officer at Bailey Middle School went to the Cojocari home with a counselor.
There was no answer at the door, so they left a ‘truancy packet.’
On December 14, Cojocari called the school counselor and told her that she would bring Madalina into school the next day.
At that meeting, Cojocari told the resource officer that Madalina had in fact been missing for weeks and was last seen entering her room to go to bed at around 10pm on November 23.
Cajocari also told the school officials that she and her husband argued that night, causing him to drive to his family home in Michigan to collect his belongings.
It was at 11.30am on November 24 that Cojacari says went to check on Madalina to find she was no longer in her bedroom.
When Palmiter returned at 7pm on November 26, Cojacari told police she asked if he knew where Madalina was and that he told her he did not.
At 11.30am on November 24 Diana Cojacari claimed she went to check on Madalina to find she was no longer in her bedroom
‘As part of the normal investigative process, we are expanding our search area outside of the home where Madalina was last seen and that now includes Lake Cornelius,’ the police department said on Tuesday
Investigators searched the Madalina’s family home, where her mother claims she was last seen going to bed
Investigators were seen digging up the front yard of her home but did not reveal if anything of interest was found
After their arrest on December 17 the two were being held at at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center.
Police carried out a thorough search of their home and were seen digging up the font yard with shovels. It is not clear whether they found anything of interest.
Her stepfather Palmiter, who works as a mechanical designer at a machinery manufacturer, is being held on $100,000 bond.
On Tuesday Diana Cojocari’s bond was set at $250,000 and a condition was set that if she makes bond she will be placed under electronic monitoring.
Madalina is 4 feet 10 inches, has dark brown hair and weighs about 90 pounds.
She was last seen wearing jeans, pink, purple and white Adidas shoes, and a white t-shirt and jacket.
Anyone with information has been asked to call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group