Mother of missing NC girl thought ‘Russian entities’ were watching, stepfather testifies

Christopher Palmiter, the stepfather of missing girl Madalina Cojocari, testified before a jury in Mecklenburg County’s Superior Court Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

Madalina Cojocari’s 2022 disappearance didn’t make much sense, the still-missing girl’s stepfather — Christopher Palmiter — said in court Wednesday, but things hadn’t made much sense in his home for some time.

Her mother, Diana Cojocari, had lots of theories, Palmiter said during his second day on the witness stand in Mecklenburg Superior Court for his own trial.

Michael Jackson and Vladimir Putin wanted to marry her for land she had back home in Moldova. Russian entities were watching her. Cellular 5G waves and WiFi signals were dangerous.

Her 11-year-old daughter, Madalina, needed to be hidden.

“I think Diana took her somewhere, maybe with her Moldovan family, I don’t know, but I think Diana has tucked her away somewhere she won’t be found,” Palmiter told his court-appointed attorney, Brandon Roseman, as he sat on the witness stand Wednesday.

Palmiter, 61, was charged alongside Cojocari with failing to report Madalina missing in December 2022.

Since then, the couple has given conflicting information to police.

Madalina was last seen Nov. 23, 2022, police say, but Cojocari and Palmiter didn’t report her missing until Dec. 15, 2022, when Bailey Middle School administrators called them in to investigate Madalina’s lengthy absence following Thanksgiving break.

Palmiter maintains that he didn’t know Madalina was missing until the school authorities started questioning her whereabouts. He thought she was at home, he testified, because Cojocari had told him she was sick, and the light had been on in her room for weeks.

Now, the 13-year-old is still missing, and her mother last week pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to report her missing, for which she had already served the maximum sentence for while awaiting a hearing in jail.

Cojocari, who was expected to be deported back to her home country of Moldova following her plea, spent the night at Palmiter’s house Tuesday evening, Palmiter told assistant district attorney Austin Butler as he began cross examining Palmiter Wednesday afternoon.

She was also in court Wednesday, though she did not go inside the courtroom where Palmiter continued to speak about their unique marriage.

He built upon the narrative he started sharing with the 12-person jury on Tuesday.

Palmiter had met Cojocari through an “online dating and marriage” site called GlobalLadies in 2008. Following a two-year gap in communication and Diana’s pregnancy with Madalina, the two reconnected and eventually married in 2016, Palmiter said Tuesday.

Their marriage, while free of sex and affection, was relatively “normal” for some time, he said. They took trips to the mountains, to Arizona, to Utah and to Niagara Falls. They acted like a family, Palmiter said, until 2022.

That’s when Cojocari became “more spiritual,” and things took a turn.

Jurors on Tuesday learned Cojocari recently subscribed to Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s cult-like teachings from the 1970s through the 1990s. Cojocari would chant prayers into the night and burn items in the firepit out back — and she’d teach Madalina to do the same, Palmiter testified on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Palmiter said Cojocari’s beliefs made less sense as time went on.

She thought a “Stop Human Trafficking” flier sent home from school was directed toward Madalina, specifically. She thought the Cornelius public school was indoctrinating children. She became weary of having phones nearby during conversations about hiding Madalina.

Palmiter’s lawyer flipped through Palmiter’s text messages, call logs and photos during the two-week period Madalina disappeared.

He took a trip to Michigan to get some of Madalina’s winter clothes, which had been left with his family in Lansing. Then, he came back, and he never saw Madalina again, he said in court. He would go to work early in the morning and come home around her bedtime.

At the time, he didn’t think much of it, he testified. He says he has no idea when Madalina disappeared.

Palmiter will return to the witness stand at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning, when an assistant district attorney will ask questions about Madalina’s still-mysterious disappearance.