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The mom and stepdad of a missing North Carolina 11-year old have been arrested for failure to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement after waiting more than three weeks to report that the girl was gone.
Madalina Cojocari was last seen at her home in Cornelius, N.C., on the evening of Nov. 23, according to the Cornelius Police Department.
Her mother, Diana Cojocari, 37, and her stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, 60, were both arrested on Saturday and are being held at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center.
Though Madalina was last seen the day before Thanksgiving, the pair waited until Dec. 15 to report her missing to a school resource officer at Bailey Middle School, where the girl attended, according to police.
Authorities are asking for the public's help and any information to help track down the missing girl. She's described as a white female weighing about 90 pounds, who was last seen wearing jeans, pink, purple and white Adidas shoes, and a white T-shirt and jacket. She has brown hair and brown eyes.
"The 6th grade middle school student loves horses and from the recent picture below, you can see how happy she is to have a big bowl of ice cream," the Cornelius Police Department posted on Facebook Monday, including a shot of the girl enjoying the treat.
The police department added Monday that they, along with the FBI and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, "are developing and following many leads through our intense investigation to" find Madalina.
"While the public will not see the majority of our investigative work, today you may see our lake patrol units and partners at the Cornelius Fire Department," the department posted. "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. We are conducting additional land and water searches as a precautionary measure. There’s nothing we won’t do to [find her]."
Palmiter's bond was increased to $200,000 when he appeared in court on Monday, and Cojocari is due in court Tuesday, North Carolina NBC affiliate WCNC-TV reported.
A prayer vigil is being held Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the girl's neighborhood. Those running it are asking that anyone attending the vigil park at Smithville Park, according to the local station.
"We just really are just praying for a Christmas miracle just to bring her home," a neighbor told WCNC.
The Cornelius Police Department is encouraging the community to print out Madalina's FBI missing poster and hang it outside their homes or businesses and share the department's official social media posts. "Right now, the best way our community can assist is to flood the area with her precious face," the department stated.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773 or 1-800-Call FBI.
"We need to make certain we have spoken to every person who may have information about Madalina to help us create an exact timeline of when she was last seen," police stated.
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