Twenty years ago, 8-year-old Kirsten Hatfield disappeared in the middle of the night from her Midwest City home. Since around 11:30 p.m. on the night of May 13, 1997, the only sign of Kristen has been the ripped, bloodstained panties found in her back yard. Her body was never found, and police were unable to identify a suspect.
Nearly two decades later, her cold case landed on the desk of Midwest City police Detective Darrell Miller.
Detective Miller discovered that the blood in Kirsten's underwear and blood found on her windowsill and a cyclone fence in her back yard either went untested or turned up inconclusive because of limited DNA technology available at the time.
Miller resubmitted the evidence for testing and began searching for men who may have been to the Hatfield family home in 1997. A number of men submitted DNA samples and were eliminated as suspects as a result.
Then police talked to Anthony Palma, a man who lived just two houses south of Kirsten's family at the time of her disappearance. In fact, he lived there still.
Palma denied knowing Kirsten or her family and said he never worked on the family's home. He told police that his home had already been searched in 1997, and that he had nothing to do with the girl's disappearance. He agreed to submit a DNA sample. Palma said that he was awakened by his dogs barking that night and noticed a white 70s model Chevy truck in the driveway next door to Kirsten's. He told investigators the truck was gone the next morning.
Detectives realized that many of the things Palma told them were inconsistent with what he told officers in 1997. They said there is no documentation that his home was ever searched by police in the late 90s.
Then his DNA analysis came back. His DNA was a "one in 293 sextillion" match to the blood found in Kirsten's underwear and on her windowsill. In 2015, police arrested Palma for the murder of Kirsten Hatfield.
Now, twenty years after the young girl's disappearance, her family finally can see justice served. An Oklahoma County jury convicted Palma for the murder of Kirsten Hatfield. They recommended a sentence of life without parole.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 27.
The body of Kirsten Renee Hatfield has never been found. Police believe Palma has remained in the home two houses down from where he abducted the girl in order to conceal evidence of her murder.