Madalina Cojocari

Madalina, circa 2022; Diana Cojocari; Christopher Palmiter

  • Missing Since 11/21/2022
  • Missing From Cornelius, North Carolina
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 04/11/2011 (13)
  • Age 11 years old
  • Height and Weight 4'11, 90 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A jacket, a white t-shirt, jeans and pink, purple and white Adidas shoes.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown eyes.

Details of Disappearance

Madalina was last seen on surveillance video getting off the school bus outside her home in Cornelius, North Carolina at 4:49 p.m. on November 21, 2022. Her mother, Diana Cojocari, said she last saw her at around noon on November 22, but later changed her story and said the last time she saw her daughter was at 10:00 p.m. on November 23, when the child went to bed.

That evening, Madalina's stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, argued with Diana. On November 23 (according to him) or 24 (according to Diana), he left town and drove to Michigan "to pick up items" from his family's home there. He later told police he had not seen Madalina for about a week prior to his trip tp Michigan.

According to the couple, when Christopher returned home from Michigan on November 26, he asked Diana where Madalina was and she said she didn't know, and he told her he didn't know either. Neither of them reported Madalina missing at the time, but each accused the other one of hiding her. In early December, Diana made a trip to the Appalachian mountains in Madison County, North Carolina, supposedly to look for Madalina.

On December 12, the school resource officer and sixth-grade school counselor from Bailey Middle School visited Madalina's home to find out why she had not been attending school. No one answered the door and they left a truancy information packet. The counselor later called Diana and asked to have a meeting about Madalina's truancy on December 15, and Diana agreed to take her daughter and meet the officer at school. She arrived at the meeting without Madalina and said she hadn't seen her daughter since November 22.

Madalina was finally reported missing at that time. When Diana was asked why she had not reported her daughter's disappearance earlier, she said she feared her husband "put the family in danger." The FBI searched the family's home and discovered the child's backpack and some of her clothing was missing, and part of the kitchen area was blocked off with plywood.

On December 17, both Diana and Christopher were arrested for failure to report the disappearance of a child. They pleaded not guilty and are both awaiting trial in that case. Photos of them are posted with this case summary.

Diana and her mother, Rodica Cojocari, have accused Christopher of selling Madalina to child traffickers for $5 million. Rodica claimed that Christopher had drugged Diana and Madalina's juice and then took Madalina from the home and "gave her over to traffickers" while she was unconscious. She suggested Madalina might have had plastic surgery to alter her appearance and make her harder to find.

Christopher has said he does not know Madalina's whereabouts but thinks Diana is hiding her somewhere and that she is alive and safe. Earlier in 2022, Diana had asked a distant relative to help "smuggle" her and Madalina away from Palmiter. Authorities stated there was "extensive communication" between Diana and this relative on December 2, and "multiple calls to phone numbers belonging to unidentified targets involved in ongoing [wiretap] drug/narcotic trafficking investigations."

Authorities have said they believe Madalina may still be alive, but the circumstances of her disappearance are unclear. Her case remains unsolved.

Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated January 9, 2024; casefile added.