Jury finds Madalina Cojocari’s stepfather guilty of failing to report her missing

CHARLOTTE — On Friday, a jury found the stepfather of missing Cornelius girl Madalina Cojocari guilty of failing to report her missing.

After days of testimony, it took jurors just 14 minutes to deliberate.

Madalina was 11 years old when she disappeared in November 2022.

Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, pleaded guilty to failure to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement on May 21 and was released from jail the next day. Last month, her stepfather Christopher Palmiter pleaded not guilty to the same charge.


The trial for Palmiter began on May 21. He even took the stand in his own defense this week.

The case was sent to the jury before 1 p.m. Friday after closing arguments wrapped.

Palmiter stood still as the verdict was read. Twelve of his peers said he did in fact fail to report the disappearance of Madalina Cojocari, who was missing for 23 days before her mother reported it.

The verdict was welcomed by detectives on the case who are still working to find her.

“We are glad to put this behind us and renew our focus on the efforts of finding Madalina,” said Cornelius Police Deputy Chief Jennifer Thompson.

After the verdict came down, the attorneys discussed Palmiter’s sentencing.


Judge Matthew Osman sentenced Palmiter to at least six months and no more than 17 months in prison. Palmiter will have 244 days credit.

But based on the state’s sentencing guidelines, for this type of felony, the judge could not sentence Palmiter to prison time based on the seriousness of the crime and the defendant’s prior record (Palmiter doesn’t have one).

Therefore, Osman said that sentence is suspended and Palmiter will serve 30 months of supervised probation — that’s two and a half years.

Palmiter is expected to appeal the decision.

Assistant District Attorney Austin Butler simplified the prosecution’s case for jurors in a passionate closing argument.

“She didn’t pick him to be the person she would call dad. He picked her,” Butler said, adding, “He was the person in the role of supervising her and he failed. That’s why he’s sitting in this seat.”

Palmiter’s defense attorney, Brandon Roseman, put the blame on Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari.

“Diana was the one that reported her missing and the only one who knew how long she had in fact been missing,” Roseman said. “Chris does not supervise Madalina. Diana made all the decisions for Madi.”

But in the end, the jury didn’t buy that. After he was sentenced, Palmiter and his team left the courthouse late Friday.

“Mr. Palmiter maintains his innocence. We’ve made a notice of appeal. We’re disappointed with the decision,” Roseman said.

Though the trial is over, the biggest question still remains: Where is Madalina?

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

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

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