Mother asked relative to smuggle her, daughter before 11-year-old girl went missing, police say

Cornelius Police Department

(NEW YORK) — The mother of a missing 11-year-old girl asked a distant relative if he could help smuggle them away from their home because she was in a bad relationship with her husband and wanted a divorce, according to a search warrant obtained by ABC News.

Diana Cojocari, 37, and her husband have been charged after they took three weeks to report her daughter, 11-year-old Madalina Cojocari, was missing.

Cellphone data reviewed by police showed that Diane Cojocari contacted and had extensive communication with her distant relative, Octavian Cebanu, according to police. Cebanu made multiple phone calls to phone numbers belonging to unidentified targets who are involved in drug and narcotic trafficking investigations, police documents show.

Police conducted a canine search of Diane Cojocari’s car, during which the dog alerted to narcotics inside the passenger-side door. Police believe the car may have evidence of narcotics, drug paraphernalia or evidence of trafficking, according to the documents.

Several items were found inside the door, including a Moldova Agroindbank debit card belonging to Diana Cojocari; Madalina Cojocari’s Romanian and Moldovan passports; Diana Cojocari’s Romanian passport; and miscellaneous education and work certificates, according to the warrant.

On Dec. 15, 2022, Diana Cojocari went to her daughter’s school and told administrators that the 11-year-old had been missing since Nov. 23, 2022, according to authorities. Police were then alerted and responded to the school.

Diane Cojocari told police she last saw her daughter when she went to bed on Nov. 23, according to the warrant. Diane Cojocari said she then had an argument with her husband, Christopher Palmiter, that night and the next morning he left to drive to his family’s house in Michigan. When she went to check on her daughter the next day, she noticed she wasn’t in her room, the warrant showed.

Diane Cojocari said she waited until Palmiter, who is not Madalina’s birth father, returned to ask him if he had seen her daughter. He said he did not and asked her if she knew where the daughter was, according to the warrant.

A school official had attempted a home visit with a school counselor to check on the girl since she had not been to school for four days, the warrant said. No one answered the door and the official left a truancy packet.

Due to their failure to report that the 11-year-old was missing for three weeks, Cojocari and Palmiter were arrested on Dec. 17. They have both been charged with a felony.

The last confirmed public sighting of Madalina Cojocari was on Nov. 22, the FBI’s Charlotte bureau said. Bureau investigators released a video in December they said showed the girl getting off a school bus at her usual stop in Cornelius, a suburb north of Charlotte.

In December, police said the parents “clearly” knew more than they have been telling investigators.

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