A North Carolina lawyer says the mother and stepfather of 11-year-old Madalina Cojocari could remain in jail for years for not reporting her missing until nearly a month later.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Madalina was reported missing in Cornelius on December 15, although her mother, 35-year-old Diana Cojocari, says she hasn’t seen her since November 23. The FBI and several other agencies, including the State Bureau of Investigation, have joined the search efforts and investigation.
According to an arrest affidavit, Cojocari told detectives that she didn’t immediately report Madalina missing because she was concerned that her husband, Christopher Palmiter, 60, would put her family in danger and that it “might start a conflict” with him.
The affidavit also said Palmiter left for Michigan around the time of Madalina’s disappearance, although there has been conflicting information on exactly when he left.
Salisbury criminal defense attorney Carlyle Sherrill told Fox 8 that if she were advising her clients, she would tell them not to say a word.
“At this point, I’d just tell my client to sit there and keep their mouth shut,” Sherrill said. “Anything you say can be used against you.”
Sherrill said she had a similar experience with a case involving suspects who talked too much, identified as Casey and Sandy Parsons. The Parsons’ adopted daughter, Erica, disappeared in 2013.
“Casey and Sandy just had this elaborate scheme they came up with, and they broadcast, invited reporters into their homes on several occasions to be able to tell this scheme that she’d come up with.”
The pair is now in prison for life for murder. Erica was found deceased in 2016 in Chesterfield, South Carolina.
In the Cojocari case, Sherill said there are red flags around the timing of the Michigan trip since Madalina’s mother said that was the last time she saw her.
“That trip to Michigan bothers me,” Sherill said.
“It bothers me because she disappeared at the same time. She disappears, and he’s going somewhere far away, several states away, then it looks suspicious.”
Meanwhile, the search for Madalina continues.
Last month, the FBI released footage from a school bus security camera, which showed Madalina in a white shirt and backpack as she exited the bus at 4:59 p.m. on November 21 in Cornelius.
This is the last time investigators have independent confirmation of when Madalina was last seen. She got off the bus on 11-21-22, at 4:59 p.m. We are seeking additional witnesses outside of the family to narrow down the exact timeline of when she disappeared. #FindMadalina pic.twitter.com/dkStKHmjjB
— FBI Charlotte (@FBICharlotte) December 20, 2022
“This is the last time investigators have independent confirmation of when Madalina was last seen. She got off the bus on 11-21-22, at 4:59 p.m. We are seeking additional witnesses outside of the family to narrow down the exact timeline of when she disappeared,” the FBI Charlotte said.
Police said Cojocari “begrudgingly” reported her daughter missing three weeks later, as she “was worried it would affect her relationship with her husband.” The pair reportedly had an argument the night Madalina disappeared, when Palmiter left for Michigan, where his family lives. He returned home on November 26.
Madalina was officially reported missing after school officials arrived at the home for a truancy check on December 12. On December 15, Cojacari had a meeting with the school, and a missing persons report was subsequently filed.
Madalina is described as a white female who stands 4-feet-10-inches tall and weighs around 90 pounds. She has brown hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information on Madalina should call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773. To remain anonymous, call North Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers at 704-896-7867.
Check back for updates.
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[Featured image: Police Handout]