Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 7:28 pm | Fair 55º


Authorities Reveal Details in Lompoc Kidnapping Case That Crossed 3 States

Joseph Hetzel Click to view larger
Joseph Hetzel

Authorities revealed Wednesday that a Lompoc kidnapping victim was able to escape at a Nevada hotel after convincing her abductor that she was going to rent a room while he parked the car.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department provided details of the four-day, three-state kidnapping case that started Friday when a man allegedly carjacked and kidnapped his ex-girlfriend on her way home from work in Solvang.

Virginia Paris, 55, of Lompoc was found safe in Henderson, Nevada Monday night, and the kidnapping suspect, Joseph Hetzel, 52, was arrested Tuesday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, and was being held in custody on $1 million bail.

The extradition process to Santa Barbara County could take days or weeks, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Wednesday.

Detectives determined that Hetzel kidnapped Virginia Paris, 55, around 6:30 p.m. Friday, Hoover said.

Hetzel allegedly followed Paris in her vehicle after she left work, and she pulled over on the 1600 block of Mission Drive.

They got into an argument, and when Paris tried to leave, Hetzel forced his way into her vehicle and drove southbound on Highway 101, Hoover said.

In the criminal complaint for Hetzel’s arrest on carjacking and kidnapping charges, authorities said that Paris texted “help” to a male coworker, who called authorities.

Her later texts read, “I am OK,” “I am fine,” “No one can help me,” and “101s,” which detectives think meant to indicate their direction of travel.

A deputy called Paris’ phone and heard her say she was in trouble, and that she sounded in distress, before the sounds of someone taking the phone away, Hoover said.

Sheriff’s detectives traveled to Arizona and Nevada during the search, and a dozen other agencies got involved in the investigation.

“Our sheriff’s detectives have been working around the clock since it first became clear that she had been kidnapped and was in trouble,” Hoover said.

Paris and Hetzel were spotted at a Goodyear, Arizona, coffee shop on Saturday morning, where Paris asked a customer for help before Hetzel physically grabbed her and forced her back to the vehicle, authorities said.

A witness tried to follow the car but had to stop when the suspect ran a red light, Hoover said. The witness did notice Paris throw the car’s registration information out of the vehicle.

The pair was spotted on security footage checking out of a hotel on Monday morning in Valle, Arizona, where Paris told a clerk she was taken against her will, and that they may be heading to Las Vegas.

“The investigation reveals during the kidnap the victim lived in constant fear of the suspect, and anytime the couple was in a public setting, the suspect kept physical control of the victim,” Hoover said in a statement Wednesday.

On Monday night, Hetzel let Paris call her family, and she told a family member that she was in the Henderson, Nevada, area, Hoover said.

A few hours later, around 11 p.m., Paris was “able to gain the suspect’s confidence that she will not try to escape and will rent a hotel room for the night,” Hoover said.

Paris walked into the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino and told staff she was a kidnapping victim and needed help, while Hetzel parked the car. 

Casino security staff took the victim to a safe location and Henderson Police officers responded, but Hetzel had fled the area, Hoover said.

Paris was taken to a nearby hospital, medically cleared and reunited with family, authorities said.

Police found Paris’ vehicle, which the pair had been traveling in, abandoned in Mesquite, Nevada, around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Law enforcement investigators got information that Hetzel had returned to the Las Vegas area on Tuesday afternoon, and police found a stolen vehicle from Mesquite in the parking lot of Dotty’s Lounge on the 100 block of Ease Bruner in Las Vegas.

Henderson Police Department officers found Hetzel inside around 6 p.m. and took him into custody, Hoover said.

The public’s assistance was instrumental in finding Paris and arresting Hetzel, Hoover added.

Witnesses “listened, got involved and called their local law enforcement,” people in three states were on the lookout for Paris’ vehicle, and local friends and family provided critical information to detectives, Hoover said.

The Sheriff’s Office also gave thanks to the law enforcement agencies that contributed to the investigation, including the Goodyear Police Department, Mesquite Police Department, Henderson Police Department, Chino Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Nevada Highway Patrol, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Coconino Sheriff’s Office, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI Criminal Apprehension Team.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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