When a young child goes missing, the world notices. Kirsten Hatfield, who would have been several decades into her life had she not vanished, was one of those children. Little girls do not simply disappear from their beds, but this is what happened to Kirsten. In the middle of the night, she was snatched up and never seen again. Nearly twenty years later, her killer was finally brought to justice.
According to Kirsten’s mother, Kirsten had been asleep in her room with her younger sibling the night she vanished. Her mother, awakened early, made her way to peek into the girl’s room around dawn and noticed that her oldest child, eight-year-old Kirsten was gone. Startled, she began to look for her child and searched the room. To her horror, blood could be seen on the windowsill. Her mother called the police immediately.
A Trail of Blood
The police took samples of the blood and were able to collect it, but that blood was not all that they found. In the yard, Kirsten’s underwear were found torn and covered in the same blood. Police were unable to use the evidence in 1997 when she vanished, but it would eventually help them to track down her killer.
A Rapist and Killer
Anthony Palma was a neighbor to Kirsten. A man in his thirties, most people had very little to say about him. He lived two doors up, making it easy to see how he could have targeted Kirsten in particular. What is particularly terrible about how police handled Anthony Palma is that Kirsten was that Kirsten was not his first victim. In fact, Palma had a record of similar crimes including breaking into a woman’s house and assaulting her, and a prior comparable crime involving the molestation of a girl of the same age. He was also at one point accused of drugging and assaulted another woman, but the case did not yield any charges.
A Cloud of Suspicion
This case in particular was one that was problematic because police had too many potential leads. Reports state that Kirsten’s mother was heavily involved in the drug scene. It is unclear if she was on drugs the night of Kirsten’s disappearance, but she herself was convinced that the drug crowd was in some way related to her daughter’s disappearance. Unfortunately, the investigation yielded unhelpful results when one person after another failed police questioning and polygraph testing.
A Break In The Case
Nearly twenty years later, police were finally able to convict Palma for Kirsten’s murder thanks to a DNA link. The blood from the original crime scene was proven to belong to Palma, leading to his immediate arrest despite the fact that he obtained his innocence.
A Somewhat Just Ending
It is a commonly shared sentiment that those who harm children do not fare well in prison and Palma was no exception. The fifty-something-year-old man found himself with quite a reputation from the moment that he arrived. There was apparently quite a lot of trouble made for him in prison, as even the most dangerous criminals hold a special level of hatred for the criminals who hurt little kids. Once he was found out, it was only a matter of time before Palma was severely hurt.
In 2019, Palma’s cellmate became the person who could not look past what he had done. According to police reports, Palma was very badly beaten before being strangled. He was pronounced dead on the spot and the development became breaking for news. Kirsten’s family has come to terms with their loss to the best of their ability and her own mother said she pitied the killer’s family, saying that she has made peace with what happened.
The media was fairly divided over the news. Though some people think he should have died in prison for what he did, most expected it to be quite a bit later. Others consider the death of this repeat killer and rapist to be a completely appropriate ending for someone who would do something so terrible to a young girl. Unfortunately, since Palma maintained his innocence until he died, police were never able to recover the body of Kirsten Hatfield.