MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — The community is still desperate for answers three months since 11-year-old Madalina Cojocari was last seen publicly. That was on Nov. 21, when she was seen on video getting off her school bus.
Her mother and stepfather did not report her missing for three more weeks, which violates state law. Both were charged with felony failure to report a missing child and are still in custody.
Law enforcement officials have been very tight-lipped on this case, and most of the information has come through the courts. Both Diana Cojocari and Christopher Palmiter have scheduled court dates for next week, on March 2.
Both are on the docket for what’s known as homicide day, even though neither are charged with homicide.
Officials with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office released the following statement to WCNC Charlotte:
“This case is on a homicide docket because it was assigned to a senior prosecutor, who is on our Homicide Team, when the defendants were initially charged. (One clarification: The March 2 court date is not a first appearance. It is a first setting, which is a procedural, administrative court date.)
We assign cases to our prosecution teams based on the range of possibilities to which evidence may lead. Nevertheless, no conclusions should be drawn from this assignment as to a change in the status of the evidence in this case.”
No new charges have been filed against Madalina’s mother or stepfather ahead of what the courts call a first setting.
“The goal of a first setting is [it] has the state provided the defense attorney what’s called discovery in the matter, police reports, statements, copies of interviews, lab reports, things of that nature," Tim Emry, a defense attorney not involved in this case said. "If those things haven’t been turned over, it’s continued to a reset of the first setting a month or two later. If it has been turned over, then it moved further along."
Emry said it is unlikely Cojocari or Palmiter would physically appear in court and that the hearing will probably be brief.
WCNC Charlotte reached out to the attorneys for both defendants and did not hear back.
Cornelius Police, the State Bureau of Investigations, and a K-9 unit were back at Madalina’s house last Tuesday, but details of the search have not been widely shared.
In an interview with Cornelius Today, Police Chief David Baucom said he is not aware the investigation stretches to Michigan, even though Palmiter told police he was there visiting family in that three-week time period. The FBI field office in Michigan previously confirmed to WCNC Charlotte they were assisting in the investigation.
Baucom also said there were no prior calls for domestic violence at their home.
Regardless of how much time passes, child advocates say the public should continue to share Madalina’s story.
“Putting up posters and flyers of this girl," Callahan Walsh with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said. "There are absolutely things the public can do to help locate this girl. All it takes is one person to see her image and say, 'Oh I remember this, I remember that, I saw her here or I saw her there."
He says keeping Madalina’s face visible may still help elicit important tips.
“While you may not be hearing a ton from law enforcement, I can guarantee they’re working tooth and nail behind the scenes to make sure this girl is found,” Callahan said. “The public should stay vigilant, they shouldn’t give up hope.”
Contact Chloe Leshner at email@example.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.