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Last Credible Sighting Of Missing North Carolina 11-Year-Old Was Video Showing Her Getting Off School Bus, Police Say

Madalina Cojocari was last spotted in surveillance footage getting off a school bus on Nov. 21. Her family has said they last saw her two days later, but police are looking for "additional witnesses outside the family" to determine an exact timeline of her disappearance.

By Jill Sederstrom
Madalina Cojocari Bus Video

A missing North Carolina girl was last seen getting off her school bus on Nov. 21, nearly a month before she was reported missing by her family.

The Cornelius Police Department released surveillance footage Tuesday of Madalina Cojocari exiting the bus along with her peers at her regular stop at 4:59 p.m. on Nov. 21.

It was the last confirmed sighting of the missing 11-year-old, according to a statement from police.

Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, and stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, told detectives they had last seen Madalina on the night of Nov. 23, but never reported her missing until a meeting at her middle school on Dec. 15.

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“We are seeking additional witnesses outside the family to narrow down the exact timeline of when she disappeared,” police said.

Cojocari and Palmiter have been arrested for allegedly failing to report the girl missing, and investigators are still trying to determine what happened to her.

Madalina Cojocari Bus Video

According to an arrest sheet obtained by Law & Crime, Cojocari told a school resource officer at Bailey Middle School that she last saw her daughter around 10 p.m. on Nov. 23 as Madalina was going to bed.

She said she and her husband argued that night and her husband, Palmiter, left the next morning to go to visit family in Michigan and “recover some items,” according to the report.

She went to check on her daughter around 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 24 and couldn’t find her in her bedroom. When Palmiter returned two days later on Nov. 26, she asked him whether he had seen Madalina and he allegedly said that he hadn’t.

When the officer asked why she hadn’t inquired about her daughter in the two days she was gone, Cojocari allegedly said she was worried it might start a “conflict” with Palmiter, according to the report.

Palmiter provided the officer with a slightly different account, telling police that he left for his trip on Nov. 23 and never saw his stepdaughter that day, authorities said. He said the last time he saw her was about a week before leaving town.

He said when he returned home on Nov. 26, he asked Cojocari where Madalina was and she said “she did not know,” according to the court document. He also claimed he asked Cojocari whether she had been hiding Madalina — and that Cojocari asked him the same question in return, and they both said no, according to authorities.

Neither ever reported her missing to the police.

On Dec. 12, School Resource Officer J. Nobles tried to visit the family’s home with a school counselor, but no one answered the door and they left a truancy packet.

Two days later, Cojocari called the school and agreed to a meeting the next day with Madalina at the middle school. However, when she arrived on Dec. 15, she didn’t bring the 11-year-old with her, authorities allege. She then told the school officials that Madalina had been missing for weeks, launching the investigation to find Madalina.

A police handout of missing girl Madalina Cojocari

The sixth grader was described by the FBI in a Twitter post on Sunday as someone who “loves horses” and ice cream, alongside a photo of the smiling girl eating a large sundae.

Her case is featured this week on FBI.gov as the “Most Wanted: Case of the Week.” Madalina is described as weighing approximately 90 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information about her whereabouts is urged to call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773 or 1-800-Call FBI.