ST. GEORGE — Police are asking the public to be on the lookout for an ex-convict suspected of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend last week. After days of searching by federal and local authorities across several states, the woman was found safe in Nevada. The vehicle driven by the suspect was found in Mesquite Tuesday morning, but the suspect is still on the run.
Upon being located, the woman told police that the suspect, 52-year-old Joseph Hetzel, may be on his way to Utah, according to a statement issued by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.
Officials believe Hetzel kidnapped 55-year-old Virginia Paris after she left work Friday in Solvang, California, and held her against her will as the two began traveling down Highway 101 in Paris’ black 2015 Chrysler 200, Sheriff’s officials in Santa Barbara said in a statement.
Authorities said Paris was recently granted a restraining order against Hetzel, but it had not yet been served.
Early Sunday morning, the two were seen nearly 500 miles away, at a Starbucks in Goodyear, Arizona, where Paris ordered coffee, officials 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 rate of speed.”
As the vehicle drove off, authorities said Paris threw her car registration out the car door and it was recovered by Goodyear Police Officers.
On Monday morning, authorities said surveillance photos showed Hetzel and Paris checking out of the Grand Canyon Inn in Valle, Arizona.
Just before 9 p.m. Monday, Paris called a family member asking for help, and that family member alerted police, authorities said. At approximately 11 p.m., Hetzel reportedly dropped Paris off in front of the Railroad Pass Casino in Henderson and drove off.
Paris asked the casino’s security officers for help and they contacted Las Vegas police.
“When officers arrived, Paris told them that Hetzel may be on his way to Utah,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “Henderson Police Officers took Paris to a local hospital where she was treated, medically cleared and reunited with family in Nevada.”
At approximately 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, Mesquite Police officers located Paris’ vehicle abandoned on the 300 block of Emmarene Street in Mesquite. Hetzel is still at large and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
“The Sheriff’s Office continues to caution members of the public that if they see Hetzel to not approach him but to call 911 immediately,” officials said Tuesday, noting that Hetzel is believed to have access to firearms and should be considered armed and dangerous.
They added that Hetzel had served time in prison for a crime stemming from a domestic incident.
Hetzel is described as a white male, 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 196 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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