Man accused of kidnapping California woman captured in Las Vegas, officials say

A California man suspected of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend and leading police on a manhunt across three states was caught in Las Vegas, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said.

Joseph Hetzel, 52, of Lompoc, was arrested just before 6 p.m. Tuesday and is being held without bail as an out-of-state fugitive, Henderson jail records show.

Sheriff’s investigators had been searching for Hetzel and his ex-girlfriend, Virginia Paris, since he was suspected of kidnapping her Friday night in Solvang. The woman had recently been granted a restraining order against Hetzel but it had not yet been served when she was kidnapped, authorities said.

Paris, 55, of Lompoc, was found Monday night at the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino in Henderson, sheriff’s officials said. Paris approached a security guard at the business and told the official she had been kidnapped.

Authorities said that Hetzel kidnapped Paris about 7:30 p.m. Friday and that their phones had either run out of battery power or been turned off. The two were spotted at a Starbucks in Goodyear, Ariz., on Sunday morning.


There, according to investigators, Paris ordered a drink and gave her name. She went to the bathroom and after she came out, told a female customer that she needed help, authorities said.

Hetzel saw the interaction, grabbed Paris and dragged her out of the store and into the car, officials said.

Paris managed to throw her vehicle’s registration out the car window as Hetzel sped onto eastbound Interstate 10 toward Phoenix.

The two were seen the following morning checking out of the Grand Canyon Inn in Valle, Ariz., officials said.

Officials said they thought Hetzel was driving to Las Vegas when the case took a turn.

Authorities said Paris called her family just before 9 p.m. Monday and said she was coming home. In a second call to her family, she asked for help and said she was in Henderson.

Paris’ family called Santa Barbara County dispatchers and Las Vegas police to launch a search effort.

About two hours later, officials said Hetzel drove up to the casino, dropped off Paris and sped away.

After her rescue, Paris told investigators Hetzel had said he was going to Utah.

A tip to local law enforcement to be on the lookout for Paris’ stolen black 2015 Chrysler 200 led to its discovery about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in the 300 block of Emmarene Street in Mesquite, Nev., a desert town of about 20,000 on the border of Nevada and Arizona about 20 miles south of Utah.

Hetzel was found later that day in Las Vegas and taken into custody.

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