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Madalina Cojocari's Mom, Prius Possibly Seen In North Carolina Mountains After Girl's Disappearance

Madalina Cojocari's mother, Diana Cojocari, and her stepfather, were arrested in December on charges that they failed to report the 11-year-old girl missing for three weeks.

By Megan Carpentier
Missing North Carolina Girl Last Seen Getting Off School Bus

Police are seeking more information about a trip the mother of a missing North Carolina girl may have taken shortly after her disappearance.

Madalina Cojocari, 11, was last seen in public getting off her school bus in Cornelius, North Carolina on Nov. 21 — the Monday of Thanksgiving week. Her mother, Diana Cojocari, 37, and stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, 60, told police that they last saw her around 10 p.m. on the night before Thanksgiving but they did not report her missing until a meeting at her school on Dec. 15 to discuss the child's repeated absences.

Diana Cojocari had reportedly told school officials that she'd bring her daughter to the meeting, but then showed up and told them she hadn't seen the girl for weeks.

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Palmiter and Diana were arrested on Dec. 17 and charged with failure to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement. Cojocari is still being held in lieu of a $250,000 bond and Palmiter is being held in lieu of a $200,000 bond, according to jail records reviewed by Oxygen.com.

A police handout of missing girl Madalina Cojocari

Madalina remains missing.

Cornelius Police are now seeking potential witnesses to a trip they believe Diana may have taken to Madison County, North Carolina in a silver Prius between Nov. 22 and Dec. 15, they said in a press release Friday. Madison County is in a mountainous region on the state's western border with Tennessee, about 150 miles from the suburban Charlotte town from which Madalina disappeared. 

Police also provided a picture of a Prius with its license plate blurred out, parked in a driveway, and two selfies apparently taken by Diana in the mountains on a cloudy day.

"One of the family members was in the Madison County area of North Carolina," the release states. "We are seeking firsthand eyewitness information from anyone who may have seen this Toyota Prius or white female in the Madison County area between the dates of November 22rd, 2022 to December 15th, 2022."

A police handout of Diana Cojocari

Police previously released a video showing Madalina getting off her school bus at her normal stop on Nov. 21 around 5 p.m., and said they were seeking witnesses "outside her family" to verify a timeline of her disappearance.

Diana allegedly told school officials that she last saw her daughter when the girl went to bed on the night before Thanksgiving, Oxygen.com previously reported. She also allegedly said she and Palmiter had argued that night and he then left to visit family in Michigan. She allegedly claimed she went to check on her 11-year-old daughter around 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning and couldn't find her, but made no effort to call Palmiter or alert authorities, as she was worried it might escalate the couple's argument.

She said Palmiter returned on Saturday and she then asked after Madalina, but he said he hadn't seen her.

Police handouts of Christopher Palmiter and Diana Cojocari

Palmiter allegedly told police that he left on Nov. 23, but hadn't seen the girl for about a week before his trip. When he returned, he allegedly claimed that he'd asked Diana if she was hiding the girl, and she said no but asked if he was. He allegedly also said he wasn't.

Neither reported her missing.

Madalina missed school on Nov. 22, and then for the two weeks after Thanksgiving, prompting multiple calls to her mother. Failing to make contact, School Resource Officer J. Nobles visited the girl's home on Monday, Dec. 12 and, when no one answered the door, left truancy information at the home.

Diana then called her daughter's middle school on Dec. 14 and set up a meeting with officials, promising to bring her daughter. She showed up without the girl and reported not having seen her since the night before Thanksgiving.

Authorities are asking that anyone with information about Madalina Cojocari or any witnesses who saw Diana Cojocari or the Prius in Madison County between Nov. 22 and Dec. 15 to call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773 or to contact the FBI at 1-800-Call FBI or at tips.fbi.gov.