Mother of missing girl Madalina Cojocari named suspect in disappearance for 1st time

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(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- The mother of an 11-year-old girl missing since 2022 has been named as a suspect in her daughter's disappearance for the first time.

Madalina Cojocari was last seen getting off her school bus in Cornelius, North Carolina, on Nov. 21, 2022, according to authorities. The sixth grader's parents told investigators she had been missing since Nov. 23, but did not report her missing until Dec. 15, according to a police report at the time.

The Cornelius Police Department said for the first time in a Facebook post earlier this week that Diana Cojocari "is considered a suspect" in the girl's disappearance.

Police did not say what led to the mother being named as a suspect, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

The girl's mother, Diana Cojocari, was released from jail last month, according to Raleigh ABC station WTVD, after serving nearly a year and a half behind bars for failing to report her missing.

Her husband, Christopher Palmiter, was also convicted for failing to report his stepdaughter missing and was sentenced to 30 months of supervised probation, WTVD reported.

"We want to #FindMadalina," police said in the post naming Diana Cojocari a suspect. "This has been our priority since we learned she was missing."

Police asked the public to continue sharing Madalina's photo on social media and to get in touch with any information that might assist with the investigation.

Shortly after the 11-year-old was first reported missing, police said her mother and stepfather "clearly" knew more than they were telling investigators.

"This is a serious case of a child whose parents are clearly not telling us everything they know," Capt. Jennifer Thompson said in a video at the time.

Police previously said the girl's school reached out to Diana Cojocari "several" times between Nov. 23 and Dec. 15, when she first reported the girl missing.

The mother told police she'd last seen her daughter going to bed in her room the night of Nov. 23, and said she and her husband argued that night, according to the arrest sheet, which was dated Dec. 17. The next day, Palmiter drove to his family's home in Michigan.

She told police she went to check on her daughter at about 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 24, but found the girl was not in her room, according to the arrest sheet. Cojocari told police she waited until Palmiter returned home, at about 7 p.m. on Nov. 26, to ask if he knew where the girl was.

When Palmiter returned from the trip, he told police he asked Cojocari where Madalina was, according to the arrest report.

Police "asked Diana why she did not report Madalina missing until" mid-December, to which she "stated she was worried it might start a 'conflict' between her and Christopher," officials wrote in the arrest sheet.

"Chris stated he spoke with Diana several time[s] about Madalina's whereabout[s] over the next three weeks," the arrest sheet said, "and both stated they did not know where she was but they did not contact the police to report Madalina missing."

Before Madalina went missing, her mother asked a relative if he could help smuggle them away from their home, saying she was in a bad relationship with her husband and wanted a divorce, according to a search warrant obtained by ABC News in March 2023.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024 at 3:01PM by Julia Reinstein, ABC News Permalink