Attorney: Man Arrested In 1997 MWC Cold Case Tried To Commit Suicide In Jail

Thursday, November 19th 2015, 12:58 pm
By: News 9

A man arrested on murder and kidnapping charges in connection the 1997 disappearance of his 8-year-old neighbor, tried to commit suicide in jail, his attorney confirmed Thursday morning.

10/12/2015 Related Story: Arrest Made In 1997 Midwest City Disappearance Case

Palma's attorney, Irven Box, confirmed with News 9's Adrianna Iwasinski that Palma tried to commit suicide while he's in jail. He has been taken to an infirmary. 

Box said he got the call about it at about 6 a.m. Thursday, from Palma's wife. Hours after getting that alarming phone call, Box got to meet with his client face to face.

"His left hand was bandaged up from his wrist almost to his elbow," said Box. "And Palma said he had a laceration that was yet to be sutured, but would sutured once he got to the jail."

Anthony Joseph Palma, 56, was arrested on complaints of first-degree murder and kidnapping, in connection to the 1997 disappearance case of Kirsten Hatfield. Hatfield was only 8 years old when she was abducted from her bed in the middle of the night 18 years ago.

Even though Hatfield's body has never been found, investigators said Palma's DNA was recently matched to blood found at the crime scene. Investigators spent more than a week searching and digging around Palma's home, but turned up nothing.

"Am I concerned about his mental health? Of course I am," said Box. "The jail is a depressing place for somebody that's not facing a murder one charge but let alone facing a murder one charge and the possibility of death."

Because of that, Box wants the jail to put Palma in protective custody, and keep him isolated from other inmates. Something the jail said they were already doing.

“For the time he's been here - every 15 minutes someone goes in and looks at his cell and makes sure he's OK” said Mark Opgrande, spokesperson for the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office. “And that's worked since he's been here. But now he's on suicide prevention watch 24/7. Which means someone will be stationed in front of his cell looking in at all times.”

Opgrande said their jail cells are very secure, but adds they'll be doing a review of what happened in Palma's case and make changes if needed.

“We learn a lot from every incident,” said Opgrande. “So that's exactly what we'll do in this case. We'll take a look at what happened, and then is there anything we can do to prevent these from happening in the future.”

Palma's attorney did have a preliminary hearing conference date set for Thursday, November 19. But that has been continued until February.

“There's a voluminous amount of materials,” said Box. “Both forensic and police reports dating back 17 years ago that we are going to have to go over before we even get a grasp of what this case is about.”

Box said depending on how Palma continues to behave, he may call for a mental competency evaluation.