Joseph Hetzel

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office

Joseph Hetzel

Solvang Kidnap Victim’s Four-Day Ordeal Told

Sheriff’s Office Releases Brief Narrative

The kidnapping case of Virginia Paris came to a safe conclusion on Monday, September 4, after she’d made calls to family and asked strangers for help in California, Arizona, and Nevada, saying she was being held by Joseph Hetzel. Paris, a 55-year-old woman from Solvang, had been granted a restraining order against Hetzel, who was her 52-year-old ex-boyfriend from Lompoc, but it had not been yet served when he allegedly drove away with her on Friday, September 1.

Though the investigation is ongoing, the Sheriff’s Office released details of the investigation, which included thanks to the public and law enforcement involved, as follows: Paris was leaving her work in Solvang around 6:30 p.m. when Hetzel began to follow her. They argued on Mission Drive, he got into her car — a black Chrysler 200 — and drove south on Highway 101. Paris called a family member, who phoned the Sheriff’s Office. When a deputy reached Paris, Hetzel took her phone.

Sheriff’s investigators stated Hetzel kept a physical hold on Paris when they were in public and that she was afraid of him. On Sunday morning, at a Starbucks in Goodyear, Arizona, Paris asked a customer for help, was pushed into the car by Hetzel, threw her registration out the window, and the customer, who’d been following them, notified police. The next day, Paris asked clerks at the Grand Canyon Inn in Valle, Arizona, where’d they’d stopped for the night, to call police and said they were headed for Las Vegas.

That evening, Paris convinced Hetzel she would not try to escape, according to the Sheriff’s report. While Hetzel was parking, she told clerks at the Railroad Hotel and Casino in Henderson, Nevada, of her situation, and hotel security escorted her away. Hetzel had fled by the time Henderson police responded, and the Chrysler was found in Mesquite, Nevada, at around 2:30 a.m.

On Tuesday afternoon, Santa Barbara Sheriff’s detectives, a large number of whom had been dedicated to the case, and Henderson police found a car stolen in Mesquite in the parking lot of Dotty’s Lounge in Las Vegas. Hetzel was inside, where officers arrested him, and booked him on charges of carjacking and kidnap, with bail set at $1 million. Extradition to California is being sought by the Sheriff’s Office.

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