An Oklahoma man has been arrested in connection with the unsolved case of an eight-year-old neighbor girl who vanished from her bedroom nearly two decades ago, police said.
DNA evidence linked Anthony Palma, 56, to the disappearance of Kirsten Hatfield who went missing on May 14, 1997, according to an affidavit made public Tuesday by Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes.
Palma was arrested on murder and kidnapping charges and is being held without bail, Clabes said.
Palma lived two doors down from the Hatfield family when she disappeared and he was interviewed the day Kirsten vanished, Clabes told INSIDE EDITION.
The child’s underpants were found in her backyard, and there was blood on the windowsill of her bedroom, police said. Her body was never found.
DNA testing carried out at the time failed to match any results in a database.
In June, an officer was assigned to follow up on her case and collected DNA from all the men who had previously been interviewed, according to KOCO. Genetic testing results matched those from the evidence analyses, police said.
DNA testing was conducted when the girl vanished, but advances in technology have made current testing much more sophisticated, Clabes told IE.
Palma was identified as a suspect in July, but Clabes said police continued to investigate him via wiretap and surveillance, aiming to bolster their case.
But officers called off the investigation and decided to arrest him on Monday because of information they uncovered during their probe, Clabes said. He would not provide further details.
Asked if Palma was deemed a danger to other children, Clabes replied: "That's a good question. I can't answer that."