Madalina Cojocari, 11, reportedly went missing on November 23 – 22 days before her parents reported her missing to her school. Her mother, Diana Cojocari, 37, and step father, Christopher Palmiter, 60, were arrested on December 17 after they never officially reported her absence to the police.
The FBI said “there’s nothing we won’t do to find” Madalina and police released a video of her exiting a school bus on November 21 – the last “independent” confirmation of the girl’s whereabouts.
“As part of the normal investigative process, we are expanding our search to include Lake Cornelius as a precautionary measure. There’s nothing we won’t do to find Madalina,” said the FBI’s Charlotte field office in a social media post.
The search of the lake comes after investigators were seen digging in the backyard of the family’s home.
Officers also searched the inside of the home but didn’t reveal whether they had found anything of interest in relation to Madalina’s whereabouts.
Court officials said that her mother, Diana, had only “hindered the investigation so far” and had “begrudgingly” reported her daughter’s disappearance to police after she appeared in court on Tuesday.
Despite multiple calls from Madalina’s school, she was never reported missing and a school resource officer and a counsellor from Bailey Middle School eventually visited the Cojocaris’ home on December 12.
On December 14, Diana Cojocari called the school counsellor and told her she would bring Madalina to school the next day.
However, at that meeting, Diana then admitted to the resource officer that her daughter had been missing for weeks and the last time she had seen her was when she was entering her room in the family’s home on November 23.
She claimed that she and her husband, Christopher Palmiter, had argued the night before which caused him to drive to Michigan in the morning to collect some personal belongings from his family home.
On November 24 at 11.30am, Cojocari says she went to check on her daughter only to discover that she wasn’t there.
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Both suspects are being held in Mecklenburg County Detention Centre following their arrests.
Palmiter is being held on a $100,000 bond while it is unclear if Diana Cojocari has had a bond set.
Madalina was last seen wearing jeans, white t-shirt and jacket with pink, purple and white Adidas shoes.
She has brown hair and brown eyes, is around 4 feet 10 inches tall, and weighs around 90 pounds.
Anyone with information about Madalina’s whereabouts is asked to call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773.