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Prosecutors Call Allegations of Past Sexual Assaults "Motive" in MWC Cold Case

11-Feb-2016

Oklahoma County prosecutors say that a man's alleged history of sexual assaults gives "demonstrative proof of motive" in the 1997 disappearance of a 8-year-old girl from her Midwest City home.

Last fall, investigators arrested the girl's neighbor, Anthony Joseph Palma, 57, after DNA analysis linked him to blood found on the girls windowsill and to her torn panties found in her backyard. Although investigators thoroughly searched Palma's home following his arrest, Kirsten Renee Hatfield's body has never been found.

Now prosecutors have filed notice that they intend to submit evidence of past sexual assaults allegedly committed by Palma, including one in which he is accused of entering the window of an 8-year-old girl and touching her inappropriately in Walters, Oklahoma. That act is alleged to have occurred in 1979 or 1980, but Palma was never charged with any crime in connection with that case.

Two years later, in 1982, Palma attacked his landlady, giving her a "savage beating" that left her with two black eyes, a broken nose, and bruising to her head and body. The woman testified that she believed that the assault was sexually motivates, saying she thought he was trying to rape and kill her. He was convicted, but not of a sex crime; instead, he was found guilty of first degree burglary and assault and battery with a deadly weapon. He spent more than a year in prison for that conviction.

In 1998, the year after Kirsten Hatfield went missing, a 17-year-old girl told police that Palma gave her pills that made her black out for several days, but that she remembered that he was washing her in a bathtub and she could not move her arms. Prosecutors say that the girl remembers very little of what happened to her, and again, Palma was never charged with any crime.

Prosecutors say these alleged instances, ". . . paint the picture of a man with a dangerous propensity to break into a residence during the night to commit a sexual related assault, to use violence upon the person of his female victims who resist the attack and a propensity to perpetrate sexual crimes against young girls given the opportunity.”

Still, calling the accusations "demonstrative proof of motive" may be a bit of a stretch. After all, if there was insufficient evidence to charge him with any sexual assault, how can these cases prove motive?

Palma's attorney says that the prosecutors' claims could be extremely prejudicial against his client, and by filing intent to use these allegations as evidence, the state could easily taint the jury pool.



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