OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma man convicted in the 1997 disappearance and presumed death of an 8-year-old girl has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Anthony Joseph Palma, 58, was sentenced Monday following his conviction on a first-degree murder charge last month, The Oklahoman reported. Palma was charged in connection to the disappearance and suspected death of Kirsten Renee Hatfield after new DNA tests connected him to the case.

Prosecutors alleged Palma took Kirsten from her home after she went to bed on May 13, 1997. Her underwear was discovered in her home’s backyard, but her body was never found, police reported.

Palma was arrested in October 2015 after new DNA testing connected him to blood found on the girl’s bedroom windowsill and on the underwear found in the yard. Palma lived near the Hatfield residence when the girl went missing and hadn’t moved.

Palma had been questioned about the disappearance in 1997 and again in June 2015. He told police both times that he had been at home the night of the girl’s disappearance.

Palma chose not to testify at his trial. He continues to deny involvement in the disappearance but said he doesn’t plan on appealing his conviction.

District Attorney David Prater said it’s unusual for a defendant to waive their appellate rights, but he said he appreciated Palma’s decision. He said Kirsten’s family has some finality with the close of the trial, though they still want to know where the child’s body can be found.

“The family was very gracious and they forgave Mr. Palma,” Prater said. “They showed a lot of class, a lot of grace and really showed their character. And I’m hopeful that something will touch Mr. Palma’s heart that will give him the opportunity to tell everyone where Kirsten is.”


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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