Prosecutors: Man accused in disappearance of Kirsten Hatfield has history of sexual assault

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MIDWEST CITY, Okla. - Prosecutors say a man who was arrested for a missing persons case that stumped investigators for decades may be linked to other crimes.

For decades, investigators were searching for any evidence that would lead them to Kirsten Hatfield.

Hatfield vanished from her Midwest City home in the middle of the night in 1997.

Hatfield, who was just 8-years-old at the time, has never been seen since.

However, authorities found her panties in the backyard and recently matched DNA evidence to Hatfield's neighbor.

In October 2015, police arrested 56-year-old Anthony Palma for the kidnapping and murder of Hatfield.

Prosecutors say that DNA found on Hatfield's panties is a near perfect match to Palma.

Now, investigators say he may be connected to other sexual assaults.

Palma was never charged with a sex crime, but these allegations could help beef up the state’s theory that Hatfield was the target of a sexual assault.

In a motion filed this week, prosecutors allege Palma previously targeted two girls for sexual assault.

One of the alleged victims was 8-years-old, the same age Hatfield was when she disappeared.

In 1979 or 1980, prosecutors say Anthony Palma entered his girlfriend’s home through a bedroom window during the night.

Court documents show Palma told his girlfriend’s 8-year-old sister to “remove her panties,” and when she refused, “he then rubbed her vaginal area over her panties.”

Palma was never charged with a crime.

“They have a case with no body. They have no confession, no admission,” Irven Box, Palma's attorney, said.

He says prosecutors are trying to build their case around Palma allegedly targeting Hatfield for sexual assault.

“It’s kind of like piling on, they can put on bad acts to show, 'Well, this act was probably committed by that person because he’s done other things that are similar,” Box said.

A year after Hatfield disappeared, prosecutors say Palma drugged his 17-year-old roommate.

Court documents show the girl “recalls being naked in a bathtub with Palma pouring water on her… She believes Palma drugged her then raped her by instrumentation.”

“I don’t think the law should allow this evidence in at all,” Box said.

Box thinks it’s unlikely the judge will let these allegations in because Palma isn’t charged with a sex crime against Hatfield.

Prosecutors disagree, saying “they show a man whose crimes steadily escalate from molesting the 8-year-old sister of his girlfriend… culminating in the kidnapping, assault, and murder of Kirsten Hatfield.”

Palma was convicted in the 1980s for beating his female landlord.

Right now, he’s being held without bond in the Oklahoma County Jail.

Palma’s preliminary hearing is set for May.

Despite extensive searches, Kirsten’s body has never been found.

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