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Salesman arrested for assault, attempted rape

December 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles police are looking for other possible victims of a man suspected of forcing his way into a Winnetka-area home, robbing a woman and attempting to rape her.Gerald Vidal, 23, is suspected of being a door-to-door magazine salesman who invaded a woman's home Thursday morning. Vidal is suspected of attacking her and trying to rape her, before making off with an undisclosed amount of money.

Officers found the victim, a 30-year-old woman, severely beaten inside her home in the Winnetka area.

"He forced his way into her home, struck her multiple times in the head, removed her clothing and then he attempted to rape her in her home," said LAPD Officer Dennis Cunningham.

The woman told officers a man tried to sell her a magazine subscription and after she declined, he barged into her home.

"When she told me, I almost had a heart attack," said Hong Thai, the victim's aunt. She said that her niece was badly beaten, but she is recovering.

Thai said that she won't be opening her door to salespeople any time soon.

"Right now, I'm thinking about making a security door, and after I get home, I'm nervous to get in," said Thai.

The LAPD said the victim was able to give officers a detailed description of her attacker. And officers found several neighbors who had seen a man in the area.

Cunningham has been investigating recent complaints about door-to-door magazine sales, and he discovered a crew of salespeople staying at a local hotel.

With the help of the motel manager, the suspect was located within three hours.

Amazingly, he was back on the sales beat, going door to door.

"He was actually soliciting magazines to senior citizens in the Fallbrook/Burbank area," said Cunningham.

Vidal has been identified by the victim and neighbors. He was being held on $5.6 million bail.

Investigators said that crime rates tend to rise when bussed-in sales crews come into the city.

"They come from out of state, so they come in, they can commit their crimes and they're gone in a week or two, and we have no way of following up, and a lot of our crimes go unsolved," said Cunningham.

The LAPD would like to hear from anyone with information about the crime or any similar attacks.

Contact Detective Darcie Cobos at (818) 756-4820, or call the LAPD 24-hour tip line at (877) LAPD-24-7.


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