Mother of missing 12-year-old girl in North Carolina now considered a suspect in her disappearance, police say

The mother of missing 12-year-old Madalina Cojocari, who was last seen at her home in Cornelius, North Carolina, a town about 20 miles north of Charlotte, in November 2022, is now “considered a suspect in her disappearance,” according to an update from the Cornelius Police Department.

Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, 37, and stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, 60, were arrested on December 17 for failure to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement, police said.

In May, Cojocari was convicted of failure to report the disappearance, after changing her plea to guilty without a plea agreement, Mecklenburg County court records show. She was sentenced to a minimum of six and a maximum of 17 months in prison, according to the judgment in the case.

CNN has reached out to Cojocari’s attorney, Daniel Powers Roberts, regarding her new status as a suspect in the case.

The Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office referred any additional questions to the Cornelius Police Department. CNN has reached out to police for additional information.

“We want to #FindMadalina. This has been our priority since we learned she was missing. Please continue to share her picture on social media to help us and call us if you have any information that can help our detectives at 704-892-7773,” police said in the Tuesday update posted on Facebook.

Madalina was last seen at her home on November 23, but her parents took until December 15 to report her missing to a resource officer at her school, Bailey Middle School.

According to the probable cause affidavits filed by police in the case, both adults denied knowledge of Madalina’s whereabouts.

A search warrant issued in March revealed Madalina’s mother and grandmother discussed a theory that Palmiter “gave the girl away for money” during a recorded jail phone call. They also discussed a “bag with money” and “withdrawing cash,” the warrant says.

Investigators then asked for access to bank records, the warrant shows, which they believed would “allow investigators to establish a financial pattern for Chris Palmiter and may contain information pertaining to the disappearance of Madalina.”

During another recorded jail phone call between Palmiter and his brother and sister-in-law, Palmiter mentioned the girl’s mother “had a lot of cash with her and he did not know where it came from.” Palmiter also told his family there was “financial stuff” coming up and his brother told him not to worry about it, the warrant states.

Officers searched the family’s home in December and seized more than two dozen items, including three cell phones, CNN previously reported. Other items taken in the search were redacted from an inventory document.

Madalina was last seen wearing jeans; pink, purple and white Adidas shoes; and a white T-shirt and jacket, authorities said. The FBI described her as 4-foot-10 inches and weighing 90 pounds, and a photo released to the public shows a smiling girl wearing a shirt that reads, “I can change the world with love.”

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