Oklahoma man convicted in 8-year-old girl's death found strangled to death in prison cell

An Oklahoma man who was recently convicted in the 1997 disappearance and presumed death of his young neighbor was found strangled to death in his prison cell on Jan. 11.

A report released Tuesday by the office of the State Medical Examiner revealed that Anthony Palma, 58, died from "ligature strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head" at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the Associated Press reports. 

Palma was found unresponsive during a routine security check and was pronounced dead at the scene by prison staff. He was reportedly killed by his cellmate, 38-year-old Raymond Pillado, who is currently serving three life sentences for murder.

In 2017, Palma was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole in the decades-old cold case disappearance of 8-year-old Kirsten Hatfield. 

Hatfield was kidnapped from her family home in the Oklahoma City suburb of Midwest City and her body was never found. She was presumed dead, and the case remained cold until a new detective was assigned to investigate her disappearance in 2014, WGHP reports. 

The detective realized some evidence collected in the case has not yet been tested and in 2015, DNA found in blood on Hatfield's bedroom window and on her underwear were linked to Palma.

It is believed the nature of Palma's crime played a role in his death.

"Those who are serving time for victimizing children, they are definitely more vulnerable," Department of Corrections spokesman Matt Elliott said.

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