According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, 55-year-old Virginia Paris was found safe after a brief search for the missing woman. Paris was thought to have been kidnapped by 52-year-old Joseph Hetzel, an ex-partner of Paris’ who had been threatened with a restraining order following their breakup; the order had not been issued yet when the kidnapping occurred. According to law enforcement, Hetzel dropped Paris off at a casino in Henderson, Nevada so that he could get away; the police were still in search of Hetzel as of September 5, and are relying on aid from the FBI to catch him.


Official reports say that Hetzel kidnapped Paris when she left her workplace in Solvang, California. Hetzel drove Paris towards Las Vegas as authorities began their search for the pair. Two days later, a sighting was reported in Goodyear, Arizona, about 500 miles away from where Paris was allegedly kidnapped. Police say that Paris went to the bathroom and used the opportunity to seek help from a worker at the coffee shop where they had stopped. Hetzel reportedly saw this act by Paris and dragged her away immediately before getting to drive off at high speed. However, Paris managed to throw out the car registration onto the road, which allowed Goodyear police to track them down easier. The day after their spotting in Goodyear, the two were seen checking out of the Grand Canyon Inn in Valle, Arizona. It appears that Paris was able to contact a family member by that ensuing evening, which led to Hetzel abandoning her at the casino. Paris immediately got in contact with the Henderson Police Department with the help of the casino staff; Paris was taken to a hospital for a check and was later transferred to her relatives.

Paris offered up the possibility that Hetzel may have escaped to Utah, although the car they had been spotted in at the Goodyear coffee shop was last found abandoned in Mesquite, Nevada. Hetzel has a history of abusive behavior towards former partners. For example, in 2004, a different ex-girlfriend accused Hetzel of poisoning her dogs, poisoning her grass and breaking her windows with stones. He has also served jail time for “possession of items used to make explosive devices, using explosive devices with the intent to terrorize, felony vandalism and criminal threats” in addition to other domestic incidents. Due to his dangerous history, those who are currently searching for him are working under the assumption he is armed and dangerous.