MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — The mother of a missing 12-year-old girl is now accused of having drugs while in the Mecklenburg County jail, according to jail records.
On Friday morning, Diana Cojocari’s jail record showed she has been charged with possession of a controlled substance at jail.
On March 17, a search was conducted and Cojocari was found with a baggie of white power in her shirt pocket.
A test concluded that the powder was a cocaine and fentanyl-based substance. Cojocari claimed she found the bag of drugs in the shower, prosecutors said.
Cojocari has been in jail since December 2022 in connection to the disappearance of her daughter, Madalina Cojocari.
“Whenever you have additional charges on someone, you always leverage that to try to get cooperation,” said Michael Tabman, a former FBI special agent. “Any law enforcement officer would. I would.”
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Tabman, who is not involved in the case, said he has investigated numerous missing person cases and has closely followed the search for Madalina.
“If they’re trying to get cooperation on murder or manslaughter, or human trafficking, they can’t negotiate away those penalties in exchange for a guilty plea of a lesser charge,” he said.
However, Tabman said prosecutors and law enforcement officers will likely take into consideration that it’s been nearly five months since Madalina was last seen getting off her school bus.
Madalina, who was 11 at the time, was seen walking off a school bus in Cornelius on Nov. 21, 2022. Diana Cojocari said she last saw her at their Cornelius home on Nov. 23, but didn’t report her missing until Dec. 15 -- 22 days later. Since then, Madalina’s mother and stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, have been charged with failure to report the disappearance of a child.
While Madalina’s whereabouts aren’t currently known, investigators say they’re still following up on leads and are hopeful for a break in the case.
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The search for Madalina expanded into western North Carolina on Jan. 6. Law enforcement sources told Channel 9 they came in contact with Diana Cojocari in a rural part of Madison County. A deputy came in contact with Cojocari at a pull-off area on U.S. Highway 25 near Lonesome Mountain Road, sources said.
Cornelius police said Diana Cojocari made a trip to Madison County in the weeks between when Madalina was last seen and the day she was reported missing.
“If law enforcement feels, we are never going to either recover the body or be able to rescue this girl, we don’t get cooperation, then the prosecution has to make a very sensitive decision as to how much we will negotiate away from a potential penalty,” Tabman said.
Cojocari’s arrest record shows she faces a total bond of $255,000 for all charges.
It remains to be seen if that will get the community any closer to bringing Madalina home.
“The colder a case gets, the more difficult it is to work it,” Tabman said. “And leads do dry up and that becomes very frustrating to the family and the concerned ones, and the public.”
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