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Joseph Hetzel facing 11 years in state prison after pleading no contest in 2017 kidnapping case

Joseph Hetzel facing 11 years in state prison after pleading no contest in 2017 kidnapping case

A Lompoc man accused of an interstate kidnapping in 2017 that began in Solvang and ended in Las Vegas pleaded no contest Tuesday and will be sentenced to 11 years in state prison Feb. 21.

Joseph Hetzel, 53, of Lompoc, is charged with stalking Virginia Paris, also of Lompoc, and kidnapping her with intent to commit rape and/or sodomy. The charges stem from incidents that occurred between Aug. 27 and Sept. 4, 2017. 

Hetzel was arrested Sept. 5, 2017, in Henderson, Nevada, for allegedly kidnapping Paris, who was his ex-girlfriend, on Sept. 1 after following her from her job at the Atterdag Inn in Solvang. Evidence suggested Hetzel took Paris to Arizona and later to Las Vegas. 

He was extradited in January 2018 to Santa Barbara County to face charges and remains in custody at the Santa Barbara County to await sentencing. 

Hetzel's probable cause hearing started Jan. 9 at the Santa Maria Superior Court but was halted once the settlement offer was proposed Jan. 15. 

On Tuesday, Hetzel pleaded no contest to an added felony count of kidnapping. He also admitted to having a felony strike from a criminal case in 2006, when he served jail time on charges of vandalism, stalking and use of an explosive device with intent to cause injury.

The remaining counts of stalking and kidnapping for rape/sodomy will be dismissed at sentencing as part of the agreement. Hetzel also must stay away from Paris and refrain from any communication with her.

While Paris was not present Tuesday, her friend Rhea Rogers, of Lompoc, spoke on her behalf in reaction to the agreement. 

"She's flabbergasted," said Rogers, who said she spoke to Paris the night of the kidnapping after Paris reached out to her through Facebook, communicating that she feared for her safety. Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies also reached out to Rogers the same night in an attempt to track Paris' location, according to Rogers. 

"How would you like to be [held captive] for four days and raped, [and] forced to be married?" she asked. "It's like a creepy horror movie." 

Rogers also was a former girlfriend of Hetzel's, spending nine months in a relationship with him, from 2016 to 2017. During that time, they lived together in Arroyo Grande.

Rogers claimed that Hetzel was "violent," had guns in her home and had spare keys to her truck. While she said she tried ending their relationship, he would allegedly tell her pity-inducing stories about his illnesses and troubles. 

"Every time I wanted to get away, he'd give me some story that was heartbreaking that [ended up] not being true," Rogers said. "He didn't want to break up with me because he wanted me to support him." 

Hetzel would often use his guns to threaten her, according to Rogers, which led her to pursue a restraining order against him that also extended to her daughter and daughter's boyfriend. 

"I wasn't surprised at all to hear about Virginia's kidnapping," Rogers said. "He has a lot of history; you can't put all these things together to not have it mean something." 

She said she attended Tuesday's hearing for her own healing and to support Paris.

"He's had too many [chances] in the past," said Rogers, adding that she wasn't aware she was in an abusive relationship while dating Hetzel but now is going to therapy for it. 

She also believes that there could be more victims of Hetzel who haven't come forward and said the 11-year prison sentence was not enough time.

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210


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