Neighbor arrested in 1997 disappearance of Oklahoma girl, 8, thanks to blood found on the victim's bedroom windowsill and a pair ripped underwear

Cold-case arrest: Anthony Palma (left), 56, has been charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping of Kristen Hatfield (right), 8, who vanished without a trace in Oklahoma in 1997
  • Anthony Palma, 56, charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping of Kristen Hatfield 
  • The 8-year-old girl went missing from her Midwest City, Oklahoma, home May 14, 1997   
  • DNA found on windowsill at Hatfield's home and a pair of the girl's underwear recovered from backyard led to Palma's arrest 
  • Police say DNA test results showed a match of one in 293 sextillion
  • Palma served more than a year in prison for assault in the 1980s 
  • Hatfield's body was never recovered; she would have been 26 today  

An Oklahoma man has been arrested in connection to the cold-case disappearance of his 8-year-old neighbor who went missing from her bedroom in 1997.

Investigators used DNA to link 56-year-old Anthony Palma to the presumed death of Kirsten Hatfield, who was reported missing from her home on May 14, 1997, according to an affidavit released Tuesday by Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes.

The blond second-grader's body was never found. Kristen would have been 26 years old today. 

Neighbor arrested: Palma was taken into custody in Midwest City Monday after his DNA returned a match

Neighbor arrested: Palma was taken into custody in Midwest City Monday after his DNA returned a match

Palma was arrested Monday on charges of first-degree murder and kidnapping, and Clabes said investigators are now searching his home for evidence. Palma lives two houses away from where Kirsten's family lived in 1997, the affidavit said.

Blood was found on Kirsten's windowsill and her underwear was found in her backyard, but the girl has not been seen since. At the time of her disappearance, investigators recovered DNA from the items but did not get a hit when running the information through a database.

The affidavit said Palma willingly gave a DNA sample in June to investigators following up on the case and results showed a match of one in 293 sextillion.

'There have been no verified sightings or contact from Kirsten since May ... of 1997,' the affidavit from Midwest City Police Detective Darrell Miller said. 'Therefore, it can be concluded that she was killed shortly after her abduction ... It is likely that Palma has been motivated to stay in the same home to conceal evidence of the crime and/or the location of Kirsten's body.'

 
Snatched: Hatfield vanished from her bedroom in Midwest City (pictured) on the night of May 14, 1997 

Snatched: Hatfield vanished from her bedroom in Midwest City (pictured) on the night of May 14, 1997 

Kirsten's mother said she had tucked her into bed (pictured) the evening before, and went she went to check on her in the morning, the girl was nowhere to be found

Kirsten's mother said she had tucked her into bed (pictured) the evening before, and went she went to check on her in the morning, the girl was nowhere to be found

Kristen was a second-grader at the time of her disappearanceHer body was never recovered

Kristen was a second-grader at the time of her disappearance. Her body was never recovered 

Key clue: Police recovered a small amount of blood on the windowsill in the child's bedroom

Key clue: Police recovered a small amount of blood on the windowsill in the child's bedroom

A pair of ripped panties with blood on them was found in the Hatfield's backyard 

A pair of ripped panties with blood on them was found in the Hatfield's backyard 

Shortly after Kristen's disappearance, her mother, Shannon Hazen, told police she had tucked her daughter in on the evening of May 13, 1997. When she went to check on her in the morning, the 8-year-old was nowhere to be found, reported The Oklahoman. 

Palma was questioned about the case in 1997 and again this past June.

Police said on both occasions, the suspect said he was home the night Kristen went missing.

Investigators said Palma's June interview was inconsistent with what he told detectives 18 years prior, reported the station KOCO.

Records show the 56-year-old served more than a year in prison in 1985 for an assault. 

Palma, who has long worked as a groundskeeper, is being held without bond. 

What happened to Kristen? Hatfield, pictured right in an age-progression photo, would have been 26 years old today 

What happened to Kristen? Hatfield, pictured right in an age-progression photo, would have been 26 years old today 

 
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By Mathias Dillion 10/13/2015 12:19:00
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