Investigators believe an ex-con in an Oklahoma City suburb murdered his 8-year-old neighbor and got away with it for 18 years. Kirsten Hatfield disappeared from her bedroom in Midwest City on the night of May 14, 1997, and Anthony Palma, who lived two houses away, was arrested this week on charges of kidnapping and first-degree murder, KOCO reports. The breakthrough in the cold case came after a new investigator took over in June and discovered that key pieces of evidence—including bloodstains on the girl's bedroom window sill and on her underwear, found in her backyard—were never tested for DNA, reports NBC News.
Palma, who was released from prison in 1986 after serving time for assault with a dangerous weapon, still lives in the same home, and an arrest warrant states that he probably stayed there "to conceal evidence of the crime and/or the location of [Kirsten's] body," reports NBC. Fox 25 reports that the 56-year-old was interviewed after the 1997 disappearance and provided a DNA sample this year when investigators finally tested the evidence and spoke to 10 suspects in the case. Court documents state that the DNA match to the evidence was 293 sextillion to 1. Police believe Palma targeted the girl for sexual assault and killed her soon after her abduction, reports KOCO. Her body has never been found. (A woman thought to have been murdered in 1984 was found alive and well in Dusseldorf.)