Judge unseals documents related to Madalina Cojocari search
WBTV’s Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner went before the judge asking her to make the search warrants public.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Mecklenburg County judge has reversed part of her decision that made certain details in the investigation surrounding the disappearance of 11-year-old Madalina Cojocari a secret, like what investigators were searching her home for and why.
The judge released six partially redacted search warrants. While most of the information was already released to the public, the documents did reveal that three iPhones were among 25 items seized. Investigators listed kidnapping as a crime they were investigating on one of the warrants.
READ THE WARRANTS BELOW:
According to the warrants, investigators also said they were looking for forensic evidence inside the family home, including blood and bodily fluids and any use of chemicals to clean blood.
As of Dec. 30, investigators said they planned to execute additional search warrants, the documents state.
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Tuesday’s release comes after WBTV’s Chief Investigative Reporter Nick Ochsner went before the judge Friday asking her to make the search warrants public.
On Friday, WBTV learned that a total of six search warrants had been executed in relation to the case, but because the warrants were sealed, it was not clear what investigators were looking for or what they found.
Among the six warrants, one was issued for Madalina’s home where she lived with her mother and stepfather, another for her stepfather Christopher Palmiter’s phone, and another for the couples’ phone records.
In court, the state had argued that making this information public could negatively impact the search for Madalina.
The attorney said, “there is no amount of public interest in these documents that could outweigh the attempts to find this little girl.”
However, Ochsner said the public has a great interest in finding and knowing what’s happening in the search for an 11-year-old child. He also stated there is no evidence the release of the search warrants would prejudice a jury or the prosecution against either of the defendants—who are both behind bars.
He argued that if the court were to keep these details a secret, the public would speculate which is not helpful to the search for Madalina.
Ultimately, Judge Archie made three big decisions in court Friday: First, she would be unsealing the affidavit because she says the details are already public knowledge.
She unsealed certain parts of the search warrants, but just things the public already knows. She also redacted things like what items were returned to the family after the search was completed.
Madalina was reported missing on Dec. 15, despite not having been seen for three weeks beforehand.
Cornelius Police released surveillance video of Madalina getting off her school bus on Nov. 21 at 4:59 p.m. This is the last time authorities have independent confirmation of when she was last seen.
Her mother, Diana Cojocari, and stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, were both arrested on Dec. 17 for failure to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement. That is the only charge they currently face.
Court officials said during her first court appearance that Cojocari has “hindered the investigation” so far and “begrudgingly” reported her daughter missing.
The Cornelius Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Bureau of Investigation continue to search for the child.
Madalina weighs approximately 90 pounds and was last seen wearing jeans, pink, purple and white Adidas shoes, and a white t-shirt and jacket.
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Madalina Cojocari is asked to contact the Cornelius Police Department at 704-892-7773 or the North Mecklenburg Crimestoppers at 704-896-7867.
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