An Oklahoma man convicted of sexually assaulting and killing his 8-year-old neighbor was strangled to death in his prison cell, according to authorities.
Anthony Palma, 59, was found dead in his cell at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary last month, but a newly released report from the medical examiner reveals new details about how the convicted killer died.
According to the report, Palma died Jan. 11 from “ligature strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head,” KFOR reports.
He was allegedly killed by his cellmate, 35-year-old Raymond Pillado and was found laying face down in the cell covered with a blanket to conceal his bloody body, according to local station KOCO.
Pillado was already serving a life sentence for three murders when he allegedly attacked Palma.
Palma was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in October 2017, 20 years after 8-year-old Kirsten Hatfield was abducted from her bed in her Midwest City home on May 13, 1997.
Hatfield’s body was never recovered but in 2015, DNA from blood left behind on the young girl’s bedroom window and the girl’s underwear found in her yard were linked to Palma, who had lived two doors down at the time of the abduction, KOCO reports.
Investigators say Palma sexually assaulted and killed Hatfield.
Her family had remained hopeful that after his conviction, Palma would provide authorities with details about where the young girl’s body was located, but his death has extinguished that possibility.
Her mother, Shannon Hazen, said in a YouTube video that had forgiven her daughter’s murderer long before she ever knew his name. That forgiveness, she said, carried her through the cold case investigation and Palma’s trial and conviction, but has been tested now.
“I had become to depend on forgiveness in Kirsten’s case. But Palma’s death is final. And it got to where I couldn’t make a connection to forgiveness, the forgiveness that I had so desperately clung to for so long,” Hazen said in the video.
She described her daughter as a “cool, cool chick” who was insightful, cuddly and spirited.
“Kirsten would have been 30 years old today and she was always worth every bit of energy that it took to grieve her, but I find myself weary in the darkness that continues to ignore her worth. I cannot let that happen any longer,” she said.
Hazen, who said she is not celebrating Palma’s death, said she had tried to reach out to the convicted killer to get him to reveal the location of her daughter’s remains or confess any other possible crimes, but any information he had has now died with him.
“I am also concerned that Palma’s death provides an opportunity to be complacent,” she said, while encouraging investigators to continue to search for her daughter’s body.
She also pleaded with the public to come forward with any information to help her daughter’s case reach its “just conclusion.”
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