CHARLOTTE — New warrants obtained by Channel 9 in connection with the disappearance of Madalina Cojocari say her mother thinks she may have been sold for cash.
On Tuesday, Channel 9 obtained copies of nearly two dozen warrants that give more insight into the investigation into Cojocari’s disappearance.
It’s been nearly eight months since Cojocari, 12, was last seen walking off a school bus on Nov. 21, 2022. Her mother, Diana Cojocari, last saw her at their Cornelius home on Nov. 23, but didn’t report her missing until Dec. 15. Since then, her mother and stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, have been charged with failure to report the disappearance of a child.
Authorities had previously released a limited number of redacted search warrants in the case. Those documents revealed that investigators had seized several phones and had searched Cojocari’s home looking for any evidence of violence.
New warrants obtained Tuesday show that more items were seized, a confidential informant was used in jail, and the girl’s mother hinted at a possible motive for her disappearance.
Palmiter and Diana Cojocari have been held in custody for months, and investigators have taken advantage of that placement to collect more information.
Authorities wrote in one search warrant that Palmiter was known to use notebooks to remember simple day-to-day tasks, and also journal his thoughts and opinions.
Investigators decided to place an informant in the jail’s housing pod with him. At one point, Palmiter told him he was remembering “the events regarding Madalina and was writing the recalled events down.” The informant last saw him writing notes on March 8.
After learning of that information from the informant, investigators seized Palmiter’s notebooks and journals, as well as paper towels, napkins, and several other surfaces that could be used for writing.
Jail phone call hints at motive
But one of the biggest revelations came in a search warrant for the family’s financial records.
Police took out a warrant to search a Capital One account belonging to Palmiter. They wanted access because during a recorded jail call between Palmiter, his brother, and sister-in-law, Palmiter mentioned Cojocari had a lot of cash with her and he did not know where it came from.
Palmiter also said there is “financial stuff” coming up, and his brother told him not to worry about the financial stuff.
In one recorded jail call between Diana and her mother, the women discuss a bag with money, withdrawing cash, and a “theory that Chris gave the girl away for money.”
A search warrant application for checking account and savings account records also cited the phone call with Diana’s mother.
Following a digital trail
Channel 9 previously reported when investigators seized several phones and electronic devices from Cojocari and Palmiter. Newly obtained warrants show that detectives also reached out to companies like Yahoo and Facebook for digital records associated with accounts linked to the pair.
One warrant indicated that Diana had at least 25 different AOL email accounts. Authorities also got digital records for a WhatsApp account belonging to Diana.
Warrants say that investigators also learned of an old hard drive belonging to Palmiter at a local repair shop. Palmiter hired the shop to replace the hard drive in October 2021. They were still in possession of the old drive, and investigators were able to seize it to look for any data that could lead to Madalina.
One warrant indicates that after the investigation began, authorities took multiple phones and electronics, but they didn’t get everything. Palmiter send a message to another person through Facebook on Dec. 16 saying, “We are in some kind of investigation, Madi is missing and the local police have taken all our electronics. Luckily, I have an old phone, although they did not take my personal computer, prob cause they overlooked it.”
Investigators were also able to get digital data from the family’s two cars during a search.
According to search warrants, Diana sent a text message on Dec. 2 indicating that “she was in the presence of the missing child.” Two days later, on Dec. 4, Cojocari went toward the mountains “claiming to be searching for Madalina.”
The documents mention sightings of Madalina and her family that were previously unknown to the public.
The warrant for banking details mentioned a possible sighting of Madalina near Sugar Mountain. The warrant says the Sugar Mountain Police Department provided surveillance photos on Dec. 16 of a man and young female. The man in the photos “was physically consistent in appearance” to the only known blood relative of Cojocari’s in the United States. The young girl “was physically consistent with [Madalina].”
That relative was also the one who had been interviewed by detectives, Channel 9 previously reported. A warrant from February says he told investigators Diana asked him if he would help with “smuggling” her and Madalina away from their Cornelius home.
The warrants also said that Diana was spotted getting her oil changed in Hickory on Dec. 3. The attendant told investigators “while children’s toys were inside the car, no... child was present.”
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Cojocari and Palmiter are currently facing charges for failure to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement.
The FBI is asking anyone with information about Cojocari to call 1-800-CALL FBI or the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773.
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