MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – Authorities fear, without a convicted killer, they will never bring full closure to the family of an 8-year-old girl last seen in 1997.
In 2015, authorities arrested Palma who lived a few houses down after DNA evidence linked to him to the crime.
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections confirmed Palma was killed on Friday at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Right now, his cellmate is believed to be responsible.
Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes said they had planned to interview Palma in prison later this year to hopefully find the last missing piece of the 22-year-old puzzle: where is Hatfield’s body?
“We’re certainly not encouraging violent acts in the penitentiary, but some people would say that he met his justice – but our concern is the fact that we’ve not had closure on this case and we may never have closure because we wanted to find her body and bring her home,” Clabes said. “Our hopes are, with any case like this, the suspect who’s convicted… in this case, it was Anthony Palma… that hopefully he would have some inkling of a conscience, maybe intervention by a higher power, maybe God and come out and tell us exactly what he did with her.”
News 4 spoke with Hatfield’s mother, Shannon Hazen, on Monday. Hazen said she and her family still hold out hope.
“In terms of bringing her home, of course we want that,” she said. “I just believe in bigger for her, so still very hopeful. Still holding for that. Still prayerful about it, and that’s where I’m at.”
Hazen said her faith and family have played and continue to play critical roles in their journey to justice.
“God’s love and forgiveness got us to Anthony Palma’s arrest. It got us through Anthony Palma’s arrest. It got us through the trial, and I anticipate it will get through whatever is next,” she said. “I’m not celebrating his death. I do pray for his family. It’s not lost on me that he has family and people that care about him.”
Clabes said the whereabouts of Hatfield’s body are among other unanswered questions.
“I’m still curious as to events that occurred that night from the time he made a decision to abduct her, to what happened that evening, to what happened to her body and what he did with her,” he said. “Perhaps he [Palma] told someone. But, perhaps someone he knows, maybe he told somebody. So, our plea to the public is, if he did… come forward, let us know.”