Trial for man accused of killing MWC girl in 1997 starts with emotional testimony

Anthony Palma sits in Oklahoma County court Oct. 10 as a first degree murder trial begins. (KOKH/Steven Anderson)

Twenty years after an eight-year-old Midwest City girl disappeared, the trial for her accused killer began Tuesday at the Oklahoma County Courthouse.

Anthony Palma is charged with murdering his neighbor Kirsten Hatfield, who vanished from her home in 1997. Her body has never been found.

Palma was arrested in 2015 after DNA evidence linked him to the crime. Police say his blood was found on the girl’s bedroom windowsill and on her ripped underwear, which was discovered in the backyard.

On Tuesday, the state laid out its case against Palma, detailing his alleged history of sexual assault in opening statements.

The first two witnesses for the state were women who say Palma assaulted them in separate incidents in the early 1980s. One woman broke down in tears, describing how Palma inappropriately touched her when she was just seven years old. She testified she felt guilty when she saw Palma’s picture on the news, and called the district attorney because she “just wanted y’all to know this wasn’t the first time.”

The second woman said she thought Palma was going to rape and kill her when he broke into her home and attacked her. She testified that Palma went to prison for the assault.

Palma’s defense attorney told the jury the witnesses who testified Tuesday have nothing to do with what happened to Kirsten two decades ago. He called the investigation “far flung” and urged the jurors to question the reliability of the evidence in the case.

Palma denies any involvement in the little girl’s disappearance. The trial continues Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

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