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Search for missing girl expands to Lake Cornelius

Cornelius officials were seen Monday searching the lake as part of the ongoing search for Madalina Cojocari.

CORNELIUS, N.C. — The search for missing 11-year-old Madalina Cojocari expanded to an area that includes Lake Cornelius Monday, officials confirmed. The girl was last seen at home on Nov. 23 but was not reported missing until Dec. 15.

"As part of the normal investigative process, we are expanding our search area outside of the home where Madalina was last seen," the Cornelius Police Department said Monday. "That now includes Lake Cornelius."

The waterway sits opposite Lake Norman in an isolated area of water to the east of Interstate 77.

The mother and stepfather of Cojocari have both been arrested and charged with failing to report the girl's disappearance in a timely matter.

Christopher Palmiter appeared in court Monday, where his bond was increased to $200,000. Diana Cojocari is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

"We are conducting additional land and water searches as a precautionary measure," the police department pledged Monday.

The Cornelius Police Department and Cornelius Fire Department have been joined by North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI in the search for Cojocari.

Credit: Cornelius Police Department

Love and concern have poured in from the community. Neighbors told WCNC Charlotte they're praying for her safe return. 

"We just really are just praying for a Christmas miracle just to bring her home," one neighbor said.

A prayer vigil is being held Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. The location of the vigil has moved to Smithville Park.

The Cornelius Police Department wrote on Facebook that the best way to help its search right now is to print out the FBI missing person poster of Madalina and post it outside. It's also suggested to share it on social media.

Cojocari is described as an 11-year-old white female, weighing 90 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes, according to police. She was last seen wearing jeans, pink, purple, and white Adidas shoes, and a white t-shirt and jacket.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Madalina Cojocari is asked to contact the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773.  

Credit: Cornelius Police Department

Cornelius is located in northern Mecklenburg County, North Carolina less than 20 miles from Charlotte.

Note: WCNC instituted a new policy in March 2021 regarding the broadcast or posting of mugshots.  

WCNC will only air or post a mugshot if the person has been formally charged with a crime and in a few other cases. The exceptions include: If it appears the person could be a danger to themselves or others or if they are wanted by authorities; to differentiate between people with a common name; if the photos could encourage more victims to come forward. The news-editorial leadership may also decide to use a mugshot based on the severity of the crime(s) committed and/or the level of public interest in the crime and ensuing criminal proceedings. 

WCNC Charlotte is choosing to show the mugshots in this case because of the ongoing investigation and public interest surrounding the case.

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