CORNELIUS, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – New documents first obtained by Queen City News revealed shocking details in the search for missing 11-year-old Madalina Cojocari.
It appears investigators were searching for a possible drug trafficking connection involving Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari.
An hour after sending the new search warrants to Queen City News, a Mecklenburg County Superior Court representative said the warrants were actually supposed to be sealed. At that point, the information in the warrants had already been published.
“Our office has been made aware that all search warrants related to this matter are sealed and not to be released,” said the clerk of the superior court. “However, being that two returned search warrants for the Green Toyota Prius and the residence at 18413 Victoria Bay Dr. have already been made public, they will now be available for viewing and inspection going forward.”
The warrants for a search executed on Diana’s car on Feb. 13 and her home on Feb. 14 revealed Diana called a distant relative, asking him to assist in “smuggling” her and Madalina away from their home. She indicated she was in a “bad relationship” with her husband, Christopher Palmiter, and wanted a divorce.
A phone record search of Diana’s family member revealed he had numerous communications with unidentified people involved in drug trafficking investigations. This led investigators to conduct a K9 sniff of Diana’s car. The K9 allegedly alerted to the driver’s side door.
The warrants do not indicate that investigators found any drugs in Diana’s home or car. Investigators did reveal they seized Madalina’s Romanian and Moldovan passport, Diana’s Romanian passport, a Moldova Agroindbank debit card belonging to “D. Cojocari,” and miscellaneous educational and work documents from Diana’s car.
In the search warrant, investigators noted, “persons associated with narcotics activity are also associated with human smuggling.”
However, the warrants did not specify what investigators believe happened to Madalina.
“When you’re dealing with trafficking and smuggling, does that ignite a little more hope that there could be something else that we as a public didn’t know of so far?” asked local criminal defense attorney Mark Jetton.
Jetton is not associated directly with the Cojocari case but has followed it closely. Queen City News asked him about the possible implications of releasing documents that should be under seal.
“I don’t think it really affects the prosecution, meaning when the folks go to court and are prosecuted, it’s not going to be a defense,” he said.
On the other hand, Jetton said it’s possible releasing these documents could have a negative impact on the investigation.
“It certainly could affect the investigation to where folks that may have spoken or have information may be a little more hesitant now,” said Jetton.
Sealing court documents, like search warrants, is not the norm. In fact, Jetton says courts usually tend to err on the side of transparency. However, in this case, investigators have gone to extra lengths to keep information close to their chest.
Queen City News reached out to Diana Cojocari and Christopher Palmiter’s attorneys but did not receive a response.
Cojocari and Palmiter are still in jail. Both are charged with failure to report a missing child.