Federal and local authorities across several states are searching for an ex-convict suspected of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend who recently obtained a restraining order against him, law enforcement officials said.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said 52-year-old Joseph Hetzel kidnapped 55-year-old Virginia Paris after she left work late last week in Solvang, Calif., about 35 miles from Santa Barbara. Authorities said surveillance photos showed Hetzel and Paris checking out of the Grand Canyon Inn in Valle, Ariz., early Monday.
Investigators believe Paris is being held against her will and that she and Hetzel are headed toward the Las Vegas area.
Sheriff’s officials in Santa Barbara said in a statement that evidence suggests Hetzel kidnapped Paris on Friday, and that the two then started traveling down Highway 101 in Paris’ black 2015 Chrysler 200.
Early Sunday, the two were seen nearly 500 miles away, at a Starbucks in Goodyear, Ariz., where Paris ordered coffee, authorities said.
“She then went to the bathroom and when she came out, she told a female customer in the coffee shop that she needed help,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “Hetzel saw this interaction, grabbed her and dragged her out of the shop. He then kicked her into a vehicle and drove off at a high speed.
“As the vehicle drove off, Paris threw her car registration out of the door and it was recovered by Goodyear Police Officers.”
Hetzel was described by police as a 6-foot-2, 195-pound man with brown hair and hazel eyes.
Paris is about 5-foot-6 with brown hair and brown eyes.
Authorities said Paris was recently granted a restraining order against Hetzel, but it had not yet been served.
They added that Hetzel had served time in prison for a crime stemming from a domestic incident.
He also served time for “possession of items used to make explosive devices, using explosive devices with the intent to terrorize, felony vandalism and criminal threats,” according to authorities.
Starting in 2004, another ex-girlfriend reported numerous vandalism incidents Hetzel was accused of; among other things, poisoning that ex-girlfriend’s dogs, throwing rocks at her windows and spraying toxic substances on her grass, according to a 2005 article in the Lompoc Record.
Authorities said Hetzel may have access to firearms and is considered armed and dangerous. The FBI is assisting with the investigation.
Anyone who has seen Hetzel or Paris, or her vehicle - a black Chrysler 200 with the California license plate number 7NGE514 - should call 911 or the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office’s anonymous tip line, 805-681-4171.