FBI officials are searching a lake in North Carolina as they continue the search for an 11-year-old girl whose parents have not reported her missing for three weeks, while the girl’s mother and stepfather remain behind bars in connection with the his disappearance.
Madalina Cojocari hadn’t been seen since the evening of November 23 when she was spotted at her home in Cornelius, North Carolina.
More than three weeks passed before her family finally reported her missing to a Bailey Middle School school resource manager on Dec. 15.
School officials then alerted law enforcement, sparking a huge manhunt to find the 11-year-old.
On Saturday, Cornelius police announced they had arrested Madalina’s mother Diana Cojocari, 37, and stepfather Christopher Palmiter, 60, and charged them each with failing to report a missing child to law enforcement. .
Now, investigators from the Cornelius Police Department, the FBI and the SBI have broadened their search for Madalina to include Cornelius Lake, not far from the missing girl’s home.
On Monday, the FBI’s Charlotte office said in a social media post that the search of the water is a “precautionary measure” and is simply “part of the normal investigative process.”
“The @CorneliusPD, #FBI and @SBI1937 are developing and pursuing many leads for #FindMadalina,” he tweeted.
“As part of the normal investigative process, we are expanding our search to include Lake Cornelius as a precautionary measure. There is nothing we won’t do for #FindMadalina.
Search vehicles were spotted by the lake while boats were on the surface of the water looking for clues.
It’s unclear what might have led officials to focus on the water, but it comes after search parties were seen digging in the backyard of the family home over the weekend.
Law enforcement officers also searched the property for clues about Madalina’s whereabouts, but did not reveal whether or not they found anything of interest.
It is unclear whether Madalina’s mother or stepfather are cooperating with investigators as questions remain as to why the parents have not reported the child missing for 22 days since they claim to have last seen her.
Cornelius Police announced Mr Palmiter’s arrest on Saturday morning, before revealing that Ms Cojocari had also been taken into custody.
“On December 17, 2022, at around 10:15 this morning, the Cornelius police arrested Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, for failing to report a missing child to the police. Cojocari never reported her daughter, Madalina Cojocari, missing after she was last seen in Cornelius on November 23, 2022,” police said in a statement.
Both suspects are being held in the Mecklenburg County Detention Center.
Mr. Palmiter is being held on a $100,000 bond while it is unclear whether a bond has been set for Ms. Cojocari.
Several law enforcement agencies including the FBI and SBI are now desperately trying to find the missing 11-year-old with her whereabouts still unknown and fears mounting for her safety.
A neighbor told local news agency WCCB that the young girl’s disappearance shocked the neighbourhood.
“I’ve lived here all my life, so I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Sydney Capps.
“It’s strange that it appears she went missing in November, and has only now been reported.”
Madalina was last seen wearing jeans, pink, purple and white Adidas shoes, a white T-shirt and jacket.
She is described as having brown hair and brown eyes, being 4 feet 10 inches tall, and weighing approximately 90 pounds.
Anyone with any information on Madalina’s whereabouts is encouraged to call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773.