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Caylee's law: What type of sentencing do Madalina Cojocari's parents face?

Madalina's mother and stepfather are charged for failing to report the 11-year-old missing within 24 hours. The state law has only been used a handful of times.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — It has now been almost 90 days since Madalina Cojocari was last seen publicly. That was on November 21, but her mom and stepdad didn’t report her missing for three weeks. That delay in reporting violates state law.

That is why Madalina’s mother and stepfather, who were arrested two months ago, remain in custody. 

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Prosecutors confirmed to WCNC Charlotte that both Diana Cojocari and Christopher Palmiter are being charged under Caylee’s law. The law has been on the books for 10 years in North Carolina, inspired by Caylee Anthony’s case in Florida. Caylee Anthony, a Florida two-year-old, was not reported missing for 31 days. Her mother, Casey Anthony, was later acquitted of Caylee’s murder. 

The law requires parents to report their child is missing within 24 hours.

On Tuesday evening, investigators were back at Madlina's Cornelius home with K-9 crews.

The property they were on was recently decorated with a yellow wreath, flowers and ribbons. The color yellow is meant to raise awareness for a missing person. It’s not clear who put those things on Cojocari’s house, as her mother and stepfather sit in the Mecklenburg County jail.

They’ve been there for two months now, indicted on felony charges for failure to report a missing child.

“They’re charged with a class I felony, which is the lowest level felony that exists,” Tim Emry, a Charlotte area defense attorney who is not involved in this case, said.

Emry said that Cojocari and Palmiter would likely get probation if they are convicted of failing to report that Madalina was missing.

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“Most people who don’t have a significant criminal record in Mecklenburg County who are charged with a class I felony, they're in and out of that jail in usually less than 48 hours,” he said. “Yet they have a very high bond that clearly they can’t make so they’re just sitting in jail.”

State data shows that Caylee’s law has been used about a dozen times in North Carolina over the last decade. There was only one other case in Mecklenburg County. It was dismissed in the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The three-week time period in Madalina's case also violates that statute. 

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“That one caught the attention of the world really and it certainly caught the attention of people in my district. I got a lot of calls from people outraged and asking what would be the case if that happened in North Carolina,” Representative Kelly Hastings recalled.

The Gaston and Cleveland County representative introduced the law after learning there was a previous loophole, which did not stipulate a required time-frame for a parent to report a child missing.

Advocates for missing children say in the early stages of a case, every minute counts.

“Legislation like that is very important. Historically families were under the impression there was a time frame, a waiting period to report a child missing and that is not the case. The minute a child is not where they’re supposed to be, law enforcement should be called,” John Bischoff with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said.

Both Cojocari and Palmiter will appear in superior court on March 2.

Chloe Leshner: Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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