Madalina Cojocari Cops Probe Possibility Persons With Ties to Drug Traffickers Smuggled Missing Girl to Safety

Madalina Cojocari

'In an interview with Octavian Cebanu (a relative of Diana), he stated that Diana Cojocari and her mother asked him if he would assist Diana with "smuggling" her and Madalina Cojocari away from the residence,' according to a new search warrant application

Madalina Cojocari went missing on Nov. 21 of last year.

Search efforts got underway for the 11-year-old girl from North Carolina on Dec.15, but three months later there is still no sign of Madalina despite the efforts of the Cornelius Police Department, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Throughout their investigation, those agencies have always emphasized that this remains a missing or kidnapped persons case, and a search warrant application obtained by Inside Edition Digital provides new insight into how officials came to that conclusion and how they plan to proceed in the ongoing investigation.

On Feb. 14, Det. Gina Patterson of the Cornelius Police Department filed an application for a search warrant in Mecklenburg County Superior Court.

A judge approved the warrant that same day, allowing Det. Patterson and a K-9 to search the home where Madalina lived with her mother, Diana Cojocari, and her stepfather, Christopher Palmiter.

That application contained two new pieces of information about the case, starting with a relative's claim that Diana and Madalina were trying to move away from Palmiter.

"In an interview with Octavian Cebanu (a distant relative of Diana), he stated that Diana Cojocari and her mother asked him if he would assist Diana with 'smuggling' her and Madalina Cojocari away from the residence," reads the application. "Octavian stated that she told him she was in a bad relationship with co-defendant Christopher Palmiter and wanted a divorce."

Det. Patterson then reviewed Diana's cell records, leading to another discovery.

"On Thursday, February 10, 2023, Cornelius Police Department Detectives and NCSBI Agents reviewed phone records for Diana Cojocari [Phone number redacted]. When reviewing phone numbers that defendant, Cojocari, contacted, she had an extensive communication on December 2, 2022 with a known subject, Octavian Cebanu (Phone Number [redacted])," Det. Patterson writes. "In reviewing this subject's phone records, there was multiple calls to phone numbers belonging to unidentified targets involved in ongoing T3 drag/narcotic trafficking investigations," according to the affidavit.


Det. Patterson decided to conduct a search of Diana's compounded car with a K-9 after learning about the calls to unidentified persons involved in drug trafficking investigations, according to the application.

She did not have a warrant to enter the car on that date, but notes in the application that a K-9 "alerted on the driver's side door of the vehicle" on that day.

Det. Patterson applied for a search warrant for that car, stating that she believed the 2008 Toyota Prius "may hold physical evidence of narcotics, drug paraphernalia, and/or evidence of trafficking."

A magistrate signed off on that warrant Feb. 13, one day before Det. Patterson applied for a warrant to search the family home.

The K-9 once again alerted inside the vehicle, according to the search warrant obtained by Inside Edition Digital.

That warrant also stated that Det. Patterson came across a number of important papers inside the vehicle, including Madalina's identifying documents.

Those documents include:

  • Moldova Agroindbank Debit Card belonging to D Cojocari
  • Madalina Cojocari Romanian and Moldovan Passports
  • Diana Cojocari Romanian Passport
  • Miscellaneous Education Certificates and Work Documents

Once all that evidence had been gathered, Det. Patterson submitted her application for the new search of the family home on Feb. 14.

"The affiant believes that a search of the residence may locate drugs and/or money not previously found in the residence," Det. Patterson writes in that application. "We believe that the additional search could be helpful in locating and leading to information on the disappearance of Madalina Cojocari."

She continues: "Based on affiant’s training and experience persons associated with narcotics activity are also associated with human smuggling."

It is not known if investigators obtained any new evidence after executing that new search warrant on the family home.


Diana and Palmiter remain in custody at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center charged with failure to report a child missing.

The two have yet to enter a plea to that charge, and a hearing that had been scheduled for earlier this month was pushed back to May at the last second.

Madalina was last seen exiting her school bus just before 5 p.m. on Nov. 21.

It was not until Dec. 15 that Diana reported her daughter missing to Bailey Middle School resource officer J. Nobles, according to an arrest report from the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office obtained by Inside Edition Digital.

That is three days after a truancy packet had been left at the family's home by "6th-grade school counselor Mrs. D. Lampkin" when no one answered the door. 

"Diana stated her and her husband, Christopher Palmiter, argued that night and the next morning he drove to his family's house in Michigan to recover some items," the arrest report reads.

Diana claims that she went to check on her daughter at around 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 24 and noticed the little girl was not in her room, police said.

She says she then waited until Palmiter returned to the house at 4 p.m. on Nov. 26 to ask if he knew where Madalina was, the arrest report says.

"I asked Diana why she did not report Madalina missing until now," writes Bailey Middle School resource officer J. Nobles in the arrest report. "Diana stated she was worried it might start a 'conflict' between her and Christopher." 

Nobles also interviewed Palmiter, who said he drove to Michigan on March 23 to pick up items and did not see Madalina on that day.

Palmiter also said that he "believed that the last time he saw her was a week before his trip," the report says.

The report goes on to say that upon returning home, Palmiter asked Madalina's mother if she "had hidden" the little girl, and she asked the same question of him, "and they both said no." 

The two then discussed the missing girl but took no action in alerting authorities, says the report.

A spokesperson for the Cornelius Police Department previously told Inside Edition Digital that school employees had called the girl's mother on several occasions prior to inquire about her absence from school.

Madalina was last seen wearing jeans, pink, purple and white Adidas shoes, and a white T-shirt and jacket, according to the FBI.

Any persons with information concerning the whereabouts of Madalina Cojocari should contact the Cornelius Police Department at (704) 892-7773. They may also contact a local FBI office, the nearest American Embassy or Consulate, or submit a tip online at


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