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Seeking answers


Nicole Hill May 16th, 2012

The big, block letters and hand-drawn peace sign of Kirsten Hatfield’s final second-grade project and the images of her stark, empty bedroom make for a jarring juxtaposition.

Kristen Hatfield in 1997

But photos of both exist in her case file at the Midwest City Police Department.

Fifteen years ago, 8-year-old Hatfield disappeared overnight from the small bedroom she shared with her younger sister in their Midwest City home. Her fate and the identity of her abductor remain unknown.

May 14 marked the somber anniversary of Hatfield’s disappearance, and law enforcement officials are hoping to spur fresh leads in a case gone cold.

“This is one of those cases that always pulls at your heartstrings,” said Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes. “You have these cases that you hope and pray are resolved before the time you retire.”

Hatfield, who now would be 23, went missing sometime between 11:30 p.m., May 13, 1997, and 6:30 a.m., May 14. A police and FBI investigation followed, and the conclusion remains that the intruder must have been someone Hatfield knew well.

“You would think there would be some type of physical struggle [if not],” Clabes said.

She did not scream, and her sister, then a toddler, either did not wake up or could not give a description of the abductor. Whoever took Hatfield came in through an open window, left ajar for ventilation.

Police found only one trace of Hatfield: her underwear in the backyard.

In the initial inquiry, several individuals close to the girl, including family members, drew suspicion. Several failed polygraph tests, but there has never been enough evidence to charge anyone, Clabes said. Hatfield’s mother had a history of drug use, the chief said, and police believed one of her acquaintances may have been responsible for the abduction. The intervening years have done little to dissuade them of that notion.

There have been no active leads in the case for several years, but investigators have followed tips across the U.S. and as far as Mexico, Clabes said.

About 2,000 children are reported missing each day, according to estimates from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Of that number, more than 169,000 have been recovered in the last 28 years.

Kristen Hatfield as she might look today

Although 15 years is a long time, there is still hope Hatfield could be found alive, said Bob Lowery, executive director of the center’s Missing Children division.

Lowery pointed to success cases like Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped at age 11 and found 18 years later in 2009.

“Somebody out there knows what happened,” he said. “We will never stop looking for Kirsten until she is found.”

 
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