A childhood friend of the 8-year-old Midwest City, Okla., girl who vanished in 1997 told jurors Wednesday that the man now on trial in the disappearance used to stare at them when they'd walk past his house.
"It would creep me out," testified Sabrina Hansen, now 30.
She said Anthony Joseph Palma would always look at them in a way that "adults shouldn't."
Palma, now 58, is charged with first-degree murder in the presumed death of Kirsten Renee Hatfield. The girl was tucked into bed May 13, 1997, by her mother, and the next morning the second-grader was gone.
Kirsten hasn't been seen since.
Palma was arrested in October 2015 after new DNA testing connected him to items at the crime scene, according to Oklahoma County prosecutors. He denies any involvement.
When Hansen was 9, she and Kirsten would play in their neighborhood together, she testified. Kirsten's abduction has always stuck with her through the years, she said.
"When a friend gets taken, it's kind of hard to get that out of your mind," she testified.
When Palma was arrested, Hansen remembered him and contacted police. She said she had never associated anyone with the crime over the years, but, after Palma's arrest, remembered how he used to make her feel uncomfortable.
"I didn't want to not say anything," she told jurors.
The victim's mother also testified Wednesday about the last time she saw Kirsten. The mother, Shannon Hazen, gave tearful testimony about putting Kirsten to bed and talking to her as she fell asleep.
"I told her I loved her and that everyone loved her," she said. "That was the last time I saw her."
Palma lived two doors down from the victim in 1997 and hadn't moved. He was questioned about Kirsten's disappearance in 1997 and again in June 2015. He told police both times he was home the night of the incident.
New forensic testing revealed Palma's DNA matched blood found on the girl's bedroom window sill and on her underwear, which was discovered in her backyard, police reported. Jurors on Wednesday were shown photos of that evidence and of the crime scene.
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