The Lompoc man who reportedly kidnapped his ex-girlfriend in Solvang and drove her to Nevada last year has been extradited and was arraigned in Santa Maria Superior Court on Monday, where he pleaded not guilty.

A preliminary hearing date will be set Wednesday. 

Joseph Hetzel, 53, was charged in September by the District Attorney's Office for felony kidnapping, stalking and a second strike enhancement from a prior case after allegedly following Virginia Paris, also of Lompoc, as she left her workplace in Solvang.

Bail for Hetzel is set at $2 million.

According to a search warrant filed with the court Sept. 4, sheriff's officials were dispatched to the 600 block of Atterdag Road on Sept. 1 to contact an employee who reported receiving a text from Paris that said, "help." The initial investigation led authorities to believe Paris was kidnapped by Hetzel, in her car, who then fled the area. 

Deputies interviewed the employee, who said he had plans to meet with Paris the day she was allegedly kidnapped but suddenly began receiving a series of text messages with the message "help." When he tried to get Paris to call him, he received the response, "No one can find me." 

Later that night, deputies called Paris' cellphone. She answered and said, "I'm in trouble, help ... give me the phone," and the call was terminated, according to the warrant. 

The deputy described Paris as being in distress, and a male was heard in the background, according to the warrant. Hetzel then allegedly took the phone away from her, and the pair weren't spotted until Sunday, when they were seen in Arizona.

According to sheriff's officials, the couple stopped at a Starbucks at 7:15 a.m. that morning and Paris gave the name 'Virginia' when she ordered. She also reportedly told a female customer she needed help. Hetzel allegedly grabbed and kicked Paris, then forced her back into the car. A witness followed the vehicle but gave up when it ran a red light, authorities said.

Later that day, the pair stopped at the Grand Canyon Inn in Valle, Arizona. The clerk called police after Paris identified herself as Virginia Paris, and said she was being held against her will, the warrant said. She also told the clerk that the couple may be headed to Las Vegas, according to the Sheriff's Office.

That evening, Hetzel reportedly allowed Paris to use a phone to call her children. Paris called a family member and said she was in the Henderson, Nevada, area. Local authorities were alerted, and the search for Paris was initiated. 

Two hours later, at 11 p.m., Hetzel reportedly dropped off Paris outside the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino in Henderson. Paris received help from the casino staff, who contacted the Henderson Police Department, officials said. By then, Hetzel had fled the scene, according to the Sheriff's Office. 

The next day, authorities were able to nab Hetzel, who was taken into custody without incident. 

During the investigation, authorities recognized Hetzel's name, according to the warrant, because a former girlfriend had obtained a restraining order against him due to "his erratic and threatening behavior toward her." Hetzel also had reportedly told his former girlfriend he would "'go out in a blaze of glory' if confronted by law enforcement." 

Hetzel was booked at the Henderson Detention Center in Nevada on charges of carjacking and kidnapping Sept. 5. Hetzel was arraigned on a warrant in Henderson, Nevada, on Jan. 10 and was extradited into Santa Barbara County on Jan. 19. He remains in custody at the County Jail, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office. 

Hetzel's lengthy criminal record dates back to the early 1990s, when he picked up multiple misdemeanors for driving on a suspended/revoked license from a prior DUI conviction in Lompoc. He was also charged with felony possession/sales in Solvang and a misdemeanor charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance in Santa Maria. 

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

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


Load comments