Episode 101: Madalina Cojocari, Crystal Morrison, Marty Teague, Lisa Thompson and Russell Anthony

Last month, the trial of 62-year-old Christopher Palmiter, the stepfather of missing Cornelius girl Madalina Cojocari, began. He was charged with failing to report eleven-year-old Madalina missing. Madalina’s mother, 39-year-old Diana Cojocari, pleaded guilty of the same charge last month and has already been released for time served. I’ve discussed this case in Episode 52 and a few weeks ago in Episode 99. Palmiter chose to have a jury decide his fate rather than plead guilty. For reasons unknown, the defense team for Palmiter released Diana from her subpoena, so she was not required to testify at this trial.

In my opinion, a very different picture emerged of this case after Palmiter’s trial.

Christopher Palmiter Trial Revelations

Madalina Cojocari was last seen getting off the school bus at her home in Cornelius, North Carolina on November 21, 2022. Her mother said she last saw the girl on the evening of November 23 around bedtime. On November 24, Christopher Palmiter drove to his brother’s home in Michigan “to recover some items” after he said he had an argument with his wife.

Madalina was not reported missing until late December, when a school guidance counselor became concerned when Madalina’s mother refused to bring her to the school. The school had called both parents and left voice mails inquiring about Madalina’s whereabouts and those calls were ignored. Both her mother, Diana Cojocari, and her stepfather, Christopher Palmiter, were charged with failure to report a child missing. Their home in Cornelius has been searched multiple times by law enforcement.

Here are some details that came out at the trial. Palmiter says he didn’t realize she was missing for at least a month. Whenever he would ask where Madaline was, Diana would say she was in the bathroom or in her room. Because he worked out of town and had a long commute, he often left the house early and returned around 7:30 p.m. each night. Madalina had been in the habit of eating dinner in her bedroom.

Diana Cojocari is from the eastern European country of Moldova, and the two met through an online dating site called Global Ladies in 2008. He traveled to Moldova in 2010 to meet Diana in person, and Madalina had not been born yet. But the girl is not Palmiter’s biological daughter. They lost contact for several years, but then she and Madalina traveled to the United States to visit him in 2015. They had 90 days to get married, or she would have to return to Moldova. They were married in early 2016, but Palmiter testified that they were never physically intimate.

Christopher Palmiter’s younger brother Matthew, who lives in South Carolina, testified in the trial. He said Diana controlled anything related to Madalina. He felt his older brother acted more as a babysitter or person in charge of Madalina’s entertainment—Diana was the one who called all the shots.

He told the jury that Diana had begun to grow more spiritual, began speaking of fighting demons, sometimes performing loud chanting rituals in the middle of the night. She also spoke of having conversations with and seeing angels. And as this behavior progressed, she was not paying a lot of attention to her daughter. Madalina would ask him to do things like take her to the park and on bike rides through the neighborhood.

It appears in the months before Madalina went missing, Diana was asking relatives if they would be willing to take her daughter in. She was also telling people she was in fear for her life, and it wasn’t from her husband. Palmiter’s older brother Paul, who lives in Michigan, said Christopher and Diana made two separate visits to his home in May of 2022. Diana was dressed as if she was trying to disguise herself and asked for his family’s help in hiding Madalina and Diana because Diana said there were people from her past tracking her. She asked what the schools were like and talked about moving there with Madalina. Not long after, Christopher told his brother he was fearful of having to care for Madalina on his own in the event something were to happen to Diana. Paul Palmiter admitted he was nervous about getting involved with if Diana’s story was true and she had the Russian mafia trying to find her, but he told Christopher he was fine to help care for Madalina as long as it was done legally.

Detective Gina Patterson with the Cornelius Police Department testified that during a search of the family’s home, they found receipts showing Diana had wired thousands of dollars to her mother in Moldova through Western Union, as well as a church or priest located in that area, in December 2022. This search also turned up $7,500 in cash in Diana’s purse, along with passports connected to Moldova and Romania. A knife was found in her car. Detective Patterson said Diana made several trips to Western North Carolina between December 2 and 15. She was stopped by a deputy in Madison County and was also seen on various surveillance videos. It appears her car was also in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, during that time period.

Christopher Palmiter clarified during the trial that this big argument on Nov. 22, 2022, was about a coffee mug. He said the mug had a snowflake on it and expressed Diana Cojocari felt there should not be any symbols, such as snowflakes in the home. He said the argument escalated to Diana taking the mug and other plates and bowls and smashing them in the trash can.

Palmiter said Diana Cojocari acted paranoid about Bailey Middle School, where Madaline was enrolled as a student. He testified that Diana Cojocari thought her daughter was being watched in an effort to be trafficked. She felt the public school was indoctrinating children. In 2022, he explained his wife felt that Russian entities were monitoring their cell phones. Palmiter recalled to the court Diana Cojocari fearing they were being monitored by Russian President Vladimir Putin and late pop star Michael Jackson.

As part of his testimony, Palmiter told the jury, “I think Diana took her somewhere with her Moldovan family,” Palmiter — who took the stand in his own defense — claimed to the jury, per the outlet. “I believe Diana has tucked her away somewhere where she’s not going to be found.”

A jury found him guilty on the charge of failure to report a child missing. He was sentenced to 30 months of supervised probation.

Christopher Palmiter has filed for divorce from Diana Cojocari. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Madalina Cojocari, who would be thirteen years old now, is asked to call the Cornelius Police Department at 1-704-892-7773.

Crystal Dawn Morrison

Another missing persons case from my area of the state has been resolved, but there are still questions remaining about the outcome. On August 23, 2012, 31-year-old Crystal Morrison was at her place of employment in Concord when she started feeling poorly. She worked at Connextions Recruiting on Corporate Drive. She called a man family described as a close friend and asked him to come and pick her up at a gas station near her job. But when he arrived, Crystal was no longer there. Co-workers and other eyewitnesses reported they had seen Crystal walking down International Drive before turning onto Highway 73, near Interstate 85. Police verified that Crystal walked past the Mistletoe Ridge neighborhood, but no one saw her after she passed the Waters Edge Apartments near Winecoff School Road. Police searched the areas surrounding the places Crystal had been seen, and followed up on more than 100 tips, but turned up no sign of Crystal.

Her sister, Mechelle Carey, told the local media that she didn’t understand why Crystal would have been walking after she left the office when she had called for a ride. Crystal had asthma, and she hadn’t been feeling well. The two sisters were close, having lost their mother at ages 14 and 9. Their father Rick Morrison raised them and he called Crystal a “daddy’s girl.” She left behind an 8-year-old son and had been a single parent, which also perplexed her family. Crystal had been looking forward to her son starting third grade and his fall baseball season. Police found nothing of value at Crystal’s workplace, and her bank and credit cards showed no activity after she left.

When she went missing, she was described as wearing a white top with a black floral print, black pants, and black heels. Crystal had reddish blonde hair and stood about five feet four inches tall. She weighed around 100 pounds.

On December 9, 2019, a survey crew came across skeletal remains on Highway 73 near the intersection of Winecoff School Road. Dental records confirmed the remains to be those of Crystal Morrison. The place where she was found was less than a mile from where she was last spotted by eyewitnesses.

Crystal’s father Rick had hired a private investigator named Kevin Ryan to look into his daughter’s disappearance. After Crystal’s remains were identified in 2020, Ryan told The Charlotte Observer that the area Crystal was found had been searched twice, so it was a shock to the family when she was located there. He also said he believed her death was likely due to a medical issue, as Crystal hadn’t been feeling well and had been on foot near where she was found after she left her workplace. No other updates on this case have been made available to the public.

Marty Teague

Reading about Crystal’s case made me remember the story of a man named Marty Teague who went missing from his home in Statesville in the summer of 2018. By all accounts, 53-year-old Marty was a creature of habit. According to an article that ran in The Statesville Record and Landmark, he liked eating bologna sandwiches for lunch and hot dogs with tater tots for dinner. He loved watching reruns “The Andy Griffith Show,” and visiting his apartment complex’s pool as often as he could. Once a month, he would take his daughters and grandchildren out to eat. He often spoke with his children daily. They had lost their mother ten years prior so Marty was their only parent left.

July 24, 2018 was the last time he was seen at his apartment complex. He vanished along with his 1994 forest green Jeep Cherokee. After two days of not hearing from her father, his daughter Kansas Bonnano went to his home at the Mallard Creek Apartments and persuaded his apartment manager to let her inside. Her father, a white male with grey hair and blue eyes, weighing around 220 pounds, wasn’t there, but he left behind his money and medications. She told the media her father suffered from high-blood pressure, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and was borderline diabetic. In the weeks after he went missing, there was no activity on his bank cards and none of his medications were refilled. His friends and family couldn’t believe no one in the area had reported seeing Marty or his car. They began a grassroots campaign of printing out flyers and passing them out in the community.

On August 30, 2019, a year after he went missing, Marty’s Jeep was located on an abandoned piece of property off Sain Road, east of the Statesville city limits. The area was approximately five miles away from his home. There was no sign of Marty near the car. On February 17, 2020, local police received a call about possible human remains near the end of Sain Road, about 50 yards Marty’s car had been found. From what I can understand, the area included a lot of overgrowth of vegetation, so searching for Marty had been difficult. His family later confirmed the remains were those of Marty, and no cause of death was released. I’m wondering if like Crystal Morrison, Marty Teague had a medical emergency, drove away in his car, and disoriented, where he ended up on the abandoned property. I know his family was relieved to have closure, but I also know it doesn’t seem like the initial investigation moved very quickly, and it took the work of his friends and family to really help spread the word of Marty’s disappearance. Even now, when you search the case, you’ll only find a handful of news articles, and most of those are related to him being found.

Cold Case: Murder of Lisa Thompson and Russell Anthony

On Sunday, May 15, 1983, police in Lancaster County received a call around 2 a.m. about a burning car parked in an abandoned lot near U.S. 521 in Heath Springs. Once they arrived on the scene, they discovered the body of a young woman on the passenger side of the front seat, and a male victim in the trunk of the car. The area had been patrolled about an area earlier by the Heath Springs police chief, and he reported no car had been there then.

The male victim was later identified as 19-year-old Russell Anthony, and the burned vehicle was his maroon and white 1974 Chevy Malibu. The woman in the front seat was 19-year-old Lisa Ann Thompson. The preliminary autopsy pointed to carbon monoxide poisoning from the car fire, but police believed both victims were already unconscious when the fire started. Later, it was determined that Lisa had been shot twice in the chest with a high-caliber pistol. There was no gun found at the scene. Russell did not appear to have been harmed and was likely locked in the trunk alive. Police did not search the trunk at first, so it was some time before Russell’s body was discovered. Police didn’t believe robbery was a motive, as Russell’s wallet containing a small amount of money and a watch were found on his body.

Lisa and Russell were both students at Andrew Jackson High School, and their family said they had been dating off and on for about a year. On the Saturday night before the murder, Lisa had worked at The Kettle restaurant in Kershaw until around 11 p.m., went home, changed, and was picked up around midnight. Her mother couldn’t confirm who had picked Lisa up, but the family assumed it was Russell. The month prior, Russell’s tires had been slashed, and a former boyfriend of Lisa’s was charged in the incident.

The Heath Springs police department only had one employee, so it joined forces with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department to investigate the murders. They tracked down what leads they could, including finding the person who reported the burning vehicle, but the case went cold, despite the local community raising funds so a reward could be offered in exchange for information.

Dateline recently put out updated reporting on this case, as it has been more than 41 years since the couple was murdered. Lisa’s family said she was the only daughter out of four siblings, a popular student at school, and a caregiver. Lisa also enjoyed having a good time and listening to popular music including artists like Prince, Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, and as well as watching Soul Train. She served as the Sunday School secretary for their church. Russell was also known as friendly and helped drive one of the school buses part-time. A friend of Russell’s named Marty Sims told Dateline he’s always believed the murder was personal and not a random act of violence, because the area where they were found was so rural.

The Lancaster County Sheriff told Dateline early on, a person of interest in the case had been established, but there was never enough physical evidence to connect that person to the case. He also said that over the years, they’ve continued to conduct interviews and a new person of interest has been discovered and is being investigated.

Anyone who has information about the deaths of Lisa Thompson and Russell Anthony is asked to call the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office at 803-283-3388.

Show Sources:

Madalina Cojocari/Christopher Palmiter





Crystal Morrison

The Salisbury Post

September 15, 2012

Family holding out hope for return of missing Concord mother


The Charlotte Observer

September 15, 2012

Woman left Concord work and hasn’t been seen again


The Charlotte Observer

October 14, 2012

Search continues for Crystal Morrison



The Charlotte Observer

October 15, 2012

Search on for woman missing since August





Marty Teague

Statesville Record and Landmark

August 16, 2018




Lisa Thompson and Russell Anthony

The Item

May 16, 1983

Two found dead in car; police suspect murder


The State

May 18, 1983

Kershaw woman shot before dying in fire


The State

Aug. 17, 1983

Despite lack of clues, Authorities Keep Case Alive