Anthony Joseph Palma, 59, sexually assaulted and killed an 8-year-old girl, authorities say. (Midwest City Police Department)
A man convicted in the cold case murder of an 8-year-old girl whose body has never been found was discovered dead in his Oklahoma prison cell Friday night, according to reports.
The body of Anthony Joseph Palma, 59, was found around 7:30 p.m. by a correctional officer doing a routine security check, a report said. Medical staff could not revive him and he was pronounced dead around 8:55 p.m.
Authorities did not say how he died.
Investigators suspect Palma’s cellmate is responsible for his death, the Oklahoman reported. The cellmate was not identified, but is serving time for first-degree murder, like Palma.
Palma’s death comes 13 months after he was sent to prison for the death of Kirsten Renee Hatfield.
In 2017, the girl's family told the Oklahoman that they had forgiven Palma and that they were praying for him.
"I pray that you someday realize God's love for you," Shannon Hazen, the girl's mother told the paper.
Prosecutors said Palma snatched Hatfield from her Midwest City home after she went to bed on May 13, 1997, and sexually assaulted her. He lived two doors down from her and had not moved at the time of his October 2015 arrest.
New DNA testing linked him to blood found on Hatfield's bedroom windowsill and her underwear discovered in her backyard.