Man found guilty in 1997 kidnapping and killing of Midwest City girl

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

A man has been found guilty of kidnapping and killing an 8-year-old Midwest City girl 20 years ago.

An Oklahoma County jury found Anthony Palma guilty of first degree murder Friday in connection to the 1997 disappearance of Kirsten Hatfield. The jury recommended Palma be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Hatfield 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. His trial began Monday. Palma denies any involvement in Hatfield's disappearance.

After decades of searching for answers, Hatfield's family, including her mother Shannon Hazen, had their prayers answered.

"We're just floored by this miracle and we are so thankful. It puts our hope back into the criminal justice system. I want to thank all of our supporters," Hazen said.

The prosecution fought an uphill battle trying to prove Palma was the one who murdered Hatfield. No body was ever recovered but DNA collected from Palma in 2015 matched a sample found on a pair of Hatfield's underwear found in the family's backyard and another sample from her bedroom. It was enough evidence for the jury, who took just over an hour to deliberate.

Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland says he hopes Palma will now come clean about the crime and tell investigators where they can find Hatfield's remains.

"We'll continue looking for her until we find her remains or until this man's heart softens enough so that he sees fit to at least let us recover Kristen's remains," Rowland said.

Palma will be officially sentenced Nov. 27.

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