EDMOND, Okla -- Experts say 20,000 cases come through the OSBI Science Center each year, but one has stayed fresh in the minds of criminologists.
Andrea Swiech, director of criminalistics, says the Kirsten Hatfield investigation has been in the back of the minds of many in the office.
"I told my children earlier this year.We saw Kirsten's picture in Walmart on one of those 'Have you seen this child?' posters and I said, 'I hope before I retire, we can solve that case.' And a couple of weeks later, we got the DNA hit. Very satisfying," Swiech said.
Earlier this year, Midwest City police began taking DNA from every man they interviewed in the investigation.
Anthony Palma, one of Hatfield's neighbors, volunteered a sample.
Using updated techniques and technology, Palma's sample came back a positive match.
Investigators say the evidence is indisputable, adding that it was a 1 in 293 sextillion match.
"It's a significant match. Sextillion is one with 21 zeroes after it and when you think about the planet having 7 billion, sextillion is more than that. Yes, it's pretty certain," Swiech said.
Sara Ferrero, a 16 year criminalist supervisor, made the hit and immediately began contacting lead investigators.
The overwhelming sense of joy and relief was unanimous. It's a break that they all hope finally eases the anguish for the Hatfield family.
"I can definitely speak for myself, everyone, everyone in this lab and Midwest City PD in saying it's extremely rewarding. That's why we come to work everyday," Swiech said.