By Jeff Harrison
A Midwest City man convicted in the 1997 murder of eight-year-old girl will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Oklahoma County District Court Judge Glenn Jones Monday sentenced Anthony Palma, 58, to life in prison without parole for the disappearance and death of Kirsten Hatfield.
Palma appeared in district court Monday along with public defenders Thomas Hurley and Catherine Hammarsten. He waived his right to appeal, according to online court records. Jones followed a jury’s recommendation and sentenced Palma to life without parole.
In October, Palma was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Kirsten Hatfield. The girl went missing from her Midwest City home on the evening of May 13, 1997. Her body has never been found.
Prosecutors alleged that Palma abducted Hatfield from her bedroom after she went to sleep. His blood was found on the girl’s windowsill and on her torn underwear, which were discovered in the backyard of her home. Palma lived just two houses away on Jett Drive.
Palma maintained his innocence throughout the 20-year investigation. He was interviewed by police in 1997 but was never considered a suspect. The man was arrested and charged with murder in October 2015 after DNA analysis proved his blood was found on Hatfield’s underwear and window sill.
On Oct. 13, Oklahoma County jurors returned the guilty verdict after about an hour and half of deliberation. The 12-person jury recommended life without parole.
After the trial, Hatfield’s mother Shannon Hazen thanked the many men and women that helped find justice and her family and church for support.
“I can’t explain, but we are just floored by this miracle and were so thankful,” said Hazen after the trial. “It puts our hope back in the criminal justice system and thankful to a gracious and powerful God.”