The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office is revealing new information about an alleged kidnapping that started last week in Solvang and ended outside the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino in Henderson, Nevada, when the victim escaped her alleged captor.

Joseph Hetzel, 52, of Lompoc, reportedly followed his ex-girlfriend, 55-year-old Virginia Paris, also of Lompoc, as she left work at approximately 6:30 p.m. Friday. Paris works in Solvang. 

Paris reportedly pulled over in the 1600 block of Mission Drive and the pair got into a verbal dispute. When Paris attempted to leave, Hetzel forced his way into her vehicle, took over driving and headed southbound on Highway 101, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Paris texted a family member for help who, in turn, called the Sheriff's Office. A deputy called the victim's phone and Paris reportedly answered, indicating she was in trouble and needed help. Hetzel then took away the phone from her. They weren't spotted until Sunday, when they were seen in Goodyear, Arizona.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the couple stopped at a Starbucks at 7:15 a.m. and Paris gave the name "Virginia" when she ordered. She also reportedly told a female customer she needed help, but Hetzel witnessed the interaction, grabbed Paris and forced her back into the car. A witness followed the vehicle but gave up when it ran a red light.

Later that same day, the pair eventually stopped at the Grand Canyon Inn in Valle, Arizona. Hetzel did not let Paris leave the room and kept physical control of her, but during checkout Monday, she was able to tell hotel staff she was a kidnapping victim and requested law enforcement be called. She also said the couple may be headed to Las Vegas, according to the Sheriff's Office.

That evening, Hetzel agreed Paris could use a cellphone to call her children. She placed two calls to a family member and said she was in the Henderson area. The family member immediately contacted the county Sheriff's Office, which contacted local authorities.

Paris also was able to gain Hetzel's trust, assuring him she would not try to escape, after it was decided they would rent a hotel room for the night. While Hetzel was parking, Paris walked into the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino and immediately notified hotel staff she was a kidnapping victim. Police responded to the location, but Hetzel had already fled the area, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Early Tuesday morning, Paris' black Chrysler sedan was located in a residential area in Mesquite, Nevada, but Hetzel remained at large.

Sheriff's detectives received information later in the day that Hetzel had returned to the greater Las Vegas/Henderson area. He was located at Dotty’s Lounge in Las Vegas and taken into custody without incident. A stolen vehicle was also located in the parking lot, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Hetzel was booked at the Henderson Detention Center in Nevada on charges of carjacking and kidnapping with bail set at $1 million. The county Sheriff's Office now is seeking extradition back to California.

Hetzel's lengthy criminal record dates back to the early '90s, when he picked up multiple misdemeanors for driving on a suspended/revoked license from a prior DUI conviction in Lompoc. He also was charged with felony possession/sales in Solvang, and a misdemeanor charge of being under the influence of controlled substance in Santa Maria. 

Then in 2000, he was charged with misdemeanor domestic spousal battery in Lompoc.

April Charlton covers Santa Barbara County for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow her on Twitter@WordsDawn

 

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