A convicted Oklahoma child killer was found dead in his prison cell Friday night, almost a year after his conviction.
The Oklahoman reports that authorities found inmate Joseph Palma, 59, dead inside his cell at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. His death, although it’s unclear how he was killed, has been listed as a homicide. Palma had been in the prison for 13 months prior to his death, serving a life sentence for murder. Palma’s cellmate has reportedly been charged in connection with his death.
In October 2015, authorities arrested Palma after they found DNA evidence and blood on the window of Shannon Hazen’s home, off of Jet Drive in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Hazen’s daughter, 8-year-old Kirsten Hatfield, who also lived in the home, disappeared in May 1997. Although Kristen has never been located, authorities found a pair of her underwear, bloodied, in the backyard of her home.
#BREAKING: The inmate killed at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary Friday night, has been identified as Anthony Palma. Palma was just recently convicted and sentenced in the death of Kirsten Hatfield who he abducted and killed in 1997 @OKCFOX pic.twitter.com/7jRZOpjSlY
— Jennifer Falsetti (@JenniferFOX25) January 13, 2019
Prosecutors alleged that Palma sexually assaulted Kirsten before killing her and hiding her body.
According to the Charley Project, Kristen was in her bedroom with her 3-year-old sister on the night she disappeared. When Hazen checked on her children around 6:30 a.m., Kirsten was gone. It took decades before Palma, who has always claimed innocence, was connected to the crime.
“First of all, I was shocked, second I was thrilled and third I was heartbroken,” Chief Brandon Clabes with the Midwest City Police Department said when he learned of Palma’s death, according to News 9.
— CNN (@CNN) October 14, 2015
“From a human standpoint, a parent’s standpoint and I probably speak for 99.9 percent of the population, he probably met his justice,” Clabes continued. “With his death, it leaves us heartbroken by the fact that we may never find Kirsten’s body and that was our hope that eventually he would someday tell us exactly what he did with her.
The story is still developing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Joseph Palma, Kirsten Hatfield/Police Handout]