Judge denies effort from Madalina Cojocari’s stepfather to delay trial

CHARLOTTE — A judge denied a motion from Christopher Palmiter’s defense team, who demanded access to evidence they allege the state is withholding from them.

The defense motioned for access to more evidence, to delay the case, and to dismiss the case. A judge denied those motions on Tuesday, saying the defense had ample time to prepare for trial and it would continue as scheduled.

Jury selection for the case begins on Wednesday.

Palmiter is the stepfather to missing Cornelius girl Madalina Cojocari, who disappeared at age 11 in November 2022.

Palmiter pleaded not guilty to failure to report the disappearance of a child and Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Monday.

Also on Monday, Channel 9 obtained a copy of an addendum to a renewed motion to compel that was written by Palmiter’s defense team.

The document details a three-hour interview conducted with Diana Cojocari’s cousin, which the defense said it was only informed about on Wednesday. It’s not clear when the interview took place.

Editor’s Note: The court document referenced below has redactions that, based on context clues, appear to refer to Madalina Cojocari. This article has been written to reflect that.

In the interview, the cousin said Diana Cojocari came to him because she was “seeking help to leave Christopher Palmiter.” He said she reached out to him because the medical excuse she had given to Madalina’s school was expiring. The cousin also said he had been in touch with Diana Cojocari’s mother “who apparently is engaged in a conspiracy with Diana to help Diana and Madalina to flee the country.”

The cousin confirmed things Palmiter had previously told police about where he thinks Madalina could be. Diana Cojocari told her cousin that Palmiter wasn’t involved in her plan to get away and that she was worried about him listening to their conversation over the phone.


Diana Cojocari told her cousin she had planned with Palmiter to head to “a safe place with his family in Michigan, but it never happened.” She told her cousin she believed she was in danger — not from Palmiter, but from someone else. She asked her cousin to take her to a safe place and that’s when he told her to call the police, but she didn’t, he said.

The cousin said to his understanding, Diana Cojocari wanted to leave and divorce Palmiter.

“Diana reveals her delusional fears to [her cousin] and tells him that she has accumulated enough funds to ‘live off of for two or three months’,” the court document reads.

According to the cousin, Diana Cojocari knew someone who grew up in her village in Moldova and who also knew her father. The cousin said he gave Diana Cojocari contacts to help her go to “trucking school.” The document didn’t say anything more about what trucking school could have been.

The calls between Diana Cojocari and her cousin match with when Madalina didn’t return to school, the defense said. In addition, Diana Cojocari was allegedly sending large amounts of money out of the country. The document mentions “newly revealed text messages and the FBI interview” that Channel 9 is working to obtain, which show Diana talking about Madalina as still being in her presence on certain dates.

Palmiter’s defense demands evidence

The defense writes several items seized during a search warrant haven’t been provided to them, including the results of a search of both Palmiter and Diana Cojocari’s computers, their cars, recording of their jail calls, or findings from a search of Diana Cojocari’s phone.

The document says the state didn’t believe the interview with Diana Cojocari’s cousin was relevant.

“The defense does not see how this statement is not relevant and not exculpatory and does not create multiple avenues of investigation that the defense needs to explore in order to be prepared to go to trial,” it reads.

The motion specifically mentions a warrant made public in March, where investigators said they interviewed one of Diana Cojocari’s distant relatives. He said Diana Cojocari and her mother asked him if he would help Diana Cojocari with “smuggling” her and Madalina away from the home. The relative said Diana told him she was in a “bad relationship” with her husband, Palmiter, and wanted a divorce.

“The aforementioned warrant was under seal at the time of the prior motion to compel and it was never provided to the defense in discovery until the defense requested an updated status on unsealed warrants from the clerk’s office May 2, 2024, and these new warrants were made available on May 6, 2024, for the defense to inspect before being uploaded to the Portal,” the document reads.

The unsealing of that earlier warrant implies that other warrants were unsealed and not shared with the defense, the document released Monday reads. It says that the warrant was released earlier due to “a Clerk’s error where the sealed warrant was leaked.”

“Regardless, the issue is not the existence of search warrants, but the information and evidence in possession of the State that had not and has not been produced, with the exception(s) noted in this filing a few days ago,” it reads.

The defense argues that they have not been provided all the evidence that the state has access to. They are demanding more discovery and time for the defense to review and prepare for trial.

“The State has taken the position that they are the final arbiter of relevance in this case. And as recent history shows, that should not be the case,” the document reads.

In a hearing nine months ago, Palmiter’s defense team said they were led to believe the reason the state hadn’t provided complete evidence was because the search for Madalina was still ongoing and might compromise the investigation.

“The Defense fails to understand how providing the entire file could comprise information that is now a year and a half stale,” the document reads.

It concludes with the defense asking for “any information that corroborates the Defendant’s prior statements to the police, reveals a conspiracy and provides inconsistent statements, as well as the intention, motivation, preparation, plan and knowledge of the co-defendant or other to hide and gas light the Defendant as to her whereabouts is patently relevant, discoverable and exculpatory.”

“The defense needs to know whom Diana was in contact with, where and when she went and what contacts and calls she had in order to bolster Palmiter’s defense,” the documents says.

(WATCH: Madalina Cojocari’s mother pleads guilty to failing to report her disappearance)

Hannah Goetz

Hannah Goetz, wsoctv.com

Hannah is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

Comments on this article