Video shows girl, 11, getting off bus before she went missing

Authorities investigating the disappearance of a North Carolina child released video footage this week that appears to show her exiting a school bus on Nov. 21, marking the final time she was definitively seen before going missing.

Madalina Cojocari, 11, is now the focus of a widespread search involving detectives at the Cornelius Police Department, the FBI and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, officials confirmed in a news release issued Tuesday that primarily introduced the school bus surveillance video.

The silent footage, which lasts just under 20 seconds, sees Cojocari walk down the center aisle of a bus surrounded by peers before disembarking at her usual stop, Cornelius Police said. Although the video only confirms the child’s whereabouts up to Nov. 21, her mother and stepfather previously told detectives that she was last seen two days later, on Nov. 23, at their home, according to the police department.

Investigators say they are currently seeking out independent witnesses outside of Cojocari’s family who might be able to corroborate the parents’ statements or otherwise provide insight into the timeline of her disappearance.

The parents, Diana Cojocari, 37, and Christopher Palmiter, 60, were arrested and charged over the weekend for failing to report their daughter missing until Dec. 15 — more than three weeks after she was allegedly last seen at home. Failure to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement is considered a Class I felony 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 reached out to Diana Cojocari “on several occasions” due to Madalina Cojocari’s extended absences from class, police said, noting that Diana reported the sixth grader’s disappearance to the 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 being 4’10” tall and weighing 90 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

On Monday, police announced that they, in coordination with the FBI as well as state investigators, had expanded the search for Cojocari to include Lake Cornelius, a manmade lake that is more than 30 miles long and about 10 miles wide.

“As part of the normal investigative process, we are expanding our search area outside of the home where Madalina was last seen and that now includes Lake Cornelius. We are conducting additional land and water searches as a precautionary measure. There’s nothing we won’t do to #FindMadalina,” police said.

Anyone with information is being asked to call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773 or 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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