‘It’s a time-consuming, very painstaking process,’ Investigators search for body of Kirsten Hatfield

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MIDWEST CITY, Okla. -- The search continued Wednesday afternoon for the body of Kirsten Hatfield. The 8-year-old vanished in the middle of the night from her Midwest City home in 1997. She would be 26 this year.

Monday, police made an arrest in the case.

They say Anthony Palma's DNA is a match for blood found at the scene.

Now investigators are searching his home for Kirsten's body, just two doors down from where Kirsten lived when she disappeared.

There is plenty of digging equipment at the home if investigators detect human remains with ground-penetrating radar.

Utility workers were out Wednesday morning marking the lines so investigators can dig.

There was a significant team of crime scene investigators working , day in and day out, search looking for signs Kirsten's body could be there, 18 years after she disappeared.

Neighbors all down Jet Drive watched Wednesday as investigators cleared trees and pulled up floorboards.

Justeen Cosar thinks Palma hid Kirsten's body here.

"I think any reasonable person could probably draw that, strongly draw that conclusion," Cosar said.

Police Chief Brandon Clabes tells us Palma isn't giving officers any information right now.

Investigators are carefully combing Palma's yard with ground-penetrating radar.

"It's a time-consuming, very painstaking process. Typically, they go foot by foot, so we may be here for days, up to weeks before we clear this scene," Clabes said.

In the past, Palma told police he had nothing to do with Kirsten's disappearance.

But new DNA testing revealed the blood stains on Kirsten's underwear and windowsill are nearly a perfect match to Palma.

As police continue searching for remains, neighbors are waiting anxiously.

"I'll feel grateful for the family, I think that's the most important thing now because he's in custody. If he did it, then justice - well there can't really be any justice for that - but I think just resolution for the family, knowing where their child is," Cosar said.

Police will have the property secured overnight.

We've learned Palma visited with an attorney in jail today, but he hasn't hired anyone. And he's still waiting to be formally arraigned on charges for first degree murder.

We also know police are looking into whether Palma could be linked to more missing child cases.

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