An Oklahoma Murderer Took A Crucial Case Detail To His Grave
It took police nearly 20 years to make an arrest in the case of missing child Kirsten Hatfield, but her body has never been found.
When 59-year-old Anthony Palma died in his prison cell in 2019, he took a secret with him: the location of 8-year-old Kirsten Hatfield’s body.
Kirsten was last seen in bed at her home in Midwest City, Oklahoma, on the night of May 13, 1997. The next morning, she was nowhere to be found and was reported missing. An investigation uncovered two horrifying clues: her blood on the bedroom window sill and her underwear lying in the yard behind her home, according to CBS news.
With forensic DNA testing in its infancy, investigators quickly hit a dead end, and the case went cold.
In June 2015, a new investigator at the Midwest City Police Department took a look at the case and realized that there was untested DNA evidence as well as evidence that could be tested again with new DNA technology.
According to NBC news, Anthony Palma lived two doors down from Hatfield’s home at the time of her disappearance, and police paid him a visit in July 2015 to follow up on the case. At that time, Palma reportedly gave a voluntary sample of his DNA.
When his DNA was compared to the evidence from the scene of the crime, authorities were able to link Palma to Hatfield’s disappearance and charged the then-56-year-old man with murder and kidnapping.
According to reports, Palma had a prior criminal record from the 1980s that included assault and/or battery with a dangerous weapon. He lived at the same Midwest City address between 1991 and his arrest in 2015.
Palma went on trial for the case in October 2017, and it took the jury just one hour to find him guilty of Hatfield’s murder, according to The Oklahoman. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, though he maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
Thirteen months later, in January 2019, Palma was dead in his cell at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary after he was strangled and beaten by his cellmate, Raymond Pillado.
Midwest City detectives had been planning to visit Palma in prison later in 2019 to see if he would tell them where Hatfield’s body was, according to reports.
Reports at the time indicate that prison officials believe Palma was targeted due to the nature of his crime. The cellmate was already serving time for a 2010 triple murder when officials say he strangled Palma with an extension cord.
Kirsten’s body remains missing.