Authorities investigating the disappearance of a North Carolina child released video footage this week showing her stepping off a school bus on Nov. 21, the last time she was definitively seen before she went missing.
Madalina Cojocari, 11, is now at the center of a widespread search involving detectives from the Cornelius Police Department, the FBI and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, officials confirmed in a press release issued Tuesday, which mainly cited the surveillance video of the school bus was introduced.
The silent footage, which lasts just under 20 seconds, sees Cojocari walking down the center aisle of a bus surrounded by colleagues before alighting at her usual stop, Cornelius police said. While the video only confirms the child’s whereabouts until Nov. 21, her mother and stepfather previously told detectives that she was last seen at their home two days later, on Nov. 23, according to police.
Investigators say they are currently seeking independent witnesses outside of Cojocari’s family who can corroborate the parents’ statements or otherwise provide insight into the timeline of her disappearance.
The parents, Diana Cojocari, 37, and Christopher Palmiter, 60,and charged over the weekend for not reporting their daughter missing until Dec. 15 — more than three weeks after she was reportedly last seen at home. Failure to report a child’s disappearance to police is considered a Class I misdemeanor in North Carolina. Both the mother and stepfather are being held at the Mecklenburg County Detention Center.
In the time between Nov. 23 and Dec. 15, staff at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools contacted Diana Cojocari “on several occasions” over Madalina Cojocari’s extended absence from class, police said, noting that Diana was responsible for the disappearance. of the sixth grader had reported to the police. School Resource Officer at Bailey Middle School on Dec. 15 “after repeated contact.”
Madalina Cojocari was last seen wearing jeans, pink, purple and white Adidas shoes and a white t-shirt and jacket, police said. Investigators describe her as 4’10” tall and weighing 90 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
On Monday, police announced that, in consultation with the FBI and state investigators, they had expanded the search for Cojocari to include Lake Cornelius, an artificial lake more than 30 miles long and about 10 miles wide.
“As part of the normal investigation process, we are expanding our search area beyond the home where Madalina was last seen to include Lake Cornelius. We are conducting additional land and water surveys as a precaution. There is nothing we will not do.” do to #FindMadalina,” police said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773 or 1-800-CALL-FBI.