The mother and stepfather of a missing 11-year-old girl have been arrested after they waited three weeks to report her disappearance.
Madalina Cojocari has not been seen since the evening of 23 November when she was spotted at her home in Cornelius, North Carolina.
More than three weeks passed before the 11-year-old’s parents finally reported her missing to a school resource officer at Bailey Middle School on 15 December. School officials then alerted law enforcement to the missing girl.
A huge manhunt is now underway to track down Madalina with her whereabouts still unknown and fears increasingly mounting for her safety.
Search crews have been spotted digging up the backyard of the family home and searching inside the property for clues, while the FBI and SBI have been drafted in to help with the investigation.
On Saturday morning, Cornelius Police announced that they had arrested Madalina’s stepfather Christopher Palmiter, 60, on a charge of failing to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement.
Hours later, police announced that they had also arrested Madalina’s mother Diana Cojocari, 37, on the same charge.
“On December 17, 2022, at approximately 10:15 this morning, Cornelilus Police arrested Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, for Failure to Report the Disappearance of a Child to Law Enforcement. Cojocari never reported her daughter, Madalina Cojocari as missing after she was last seen in Cornelius on November 23, 2022,” police said in a statement.
Both suspects are being held at Mecklenburg County Detention Center.
Mr Palmiter is being held on a $100,000 bond while it is unclear if any bond has been set for Ms Cojocari.
It is not clear why the couple waited a staggering 22 days to raise the alarm about their daughter’s disappearance or if either of them are cooperating with the law enforcement investigation.
A neighbour told local outlet WCCB that the young girl’s disappearance has shocked the neighbourhood.
“I’ve lived here my whole life so I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sydney Capps.
“It’s odd that it seems like she went missing back in November, and it’s just now being reported.”
Madalina was last seen wearing jeans, pink, purple and white Adidas shoes, and a white t-shirt and jacket.
She is described as having brown hair and brown eyes, being 4 feet 10 inches tall, and weighing around 90 pounds.
Anyone with information about Madalina’s whereabouts is asked to call the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773.