Lompoc kidnap victim found at Vegas-area casino; suspect, an ex-boyfriend, still at large

Virginia Paris and Joseph Hetzel.
Virginia Paris and Joseph Hetzel.

Virginia Paris, the Lompoc woman believed kidnapped by her ex-boyfriend, has been found at a Las Vegas-area casino-hotel near the Arizona border.

Just before 9 p.m. Monday, Paris made two calls to a family member, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said. The first call was short, and Paris told the family member she was coming home. In the second call, Paris asked for help and said she was in the Henderson, Nevada, area, officials said.

The family member called the authorities, and law enforcement agencies started coordinating search efforts.

About 11 p.m. Monday, Joseph Hetzel, Paris’s 52-year-old ex-boyfriend and suspected kidnapper, dropped Paris off in front of the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino and drove off, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Henderson Officer Rod Pena says security at the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino reported that Paris approached guards late Monday and told them she had been abducted. Casino staff then contacted the Henderson Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office said. When police arrived, Paris told them that Hetzel might be on his way to Utah, officials said.

The 55-year-old woman was taken to a local hospital, where authorities said she was treated and medically cleared before reuniting with family in Nevada.

About 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, officials found Paris’ vehicle, a black 2015 Chrysler 200, abandoned on the 300 block of Emmarene Street in Mesquite, Nevada.

The suspect, 52-year-old Joseph Hetzel, is still at large.

Investigators believe Hetzel kidnapped Paris in Solvang on Friday and drove away in her black Chrysler sedan.

They were seen Sunday near Phoenix, where Paris approached a customer for help at a coffee shop. Investigators say Hetzel saw the exchange, grabbed Paris and dragged her away.

Paris previously obtained a restraining order against Hetzel.

Authorities ask anyone who sees Hetzel to call 911 immediately and to not approach him.

Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_Gabby

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