VISTA — A door-to-door salesman pleaded not guilty in court Dec. 29 to 14 charges that allege he bound and sexually assaulted two sisters at knifepoint after being let inside their Escondido home to show a demonstration of a cleaning solution.
Joshua Thomas Nitkin, 21, who is 5-feet-8-inches tall and weighs 145 pounds, was said to be selling the cleaning product at noon Dec. 22 at the 2300 block of Felicita Road when he approached the victims’ house and knocked on the door.
“I think there were several people out there selling stuff,” said Lt. James Bolwerk, of the San Marcos Sheriff’s Station. “I’m under the impression he was working for a crew.”
The 19-year-old female victim opened the door to Nitkin, who went inside, produced a knife and threatened to kill her and her 22-year-old sister, Bolwerk said.
According to court reports, prosecutor Tracy Prior told the judge that Nitkin took a butcher knife from the kitchen and threatened the sisters before allegedly sexually assaulting them in a bedroom.
He then made one sister tie up the other with a belt before he bound the other sister himself, she said.
After the young women began pleading to the defendant in Spanish, his actions became less violent, Prior said in court.
Nitkin was ordered held on $1 million bail by Superior Court Judge Marshall Y. Hockett, and two future court dates were set for Jan. 6 and Jan. 11, for a readiness conference and a preliminary hearing, respectively.
A dozen of the charges Nitkin faces are felonies, and include attempted robbery, kidnapping, forcible sexual battery, assault with intent to commit rape, threatening death and burglary.
Prior said he faces 25 years in prison, if convicted.
Deputies from the San Marcos Station are assigned to patrol in the area the assault occurred, which is an unincorporated area of Escondido, just west of the 15 Freeway off of Gamble Lane.
Those deputies conducted the initial investigation and turned the matter over to a specialized sexual assault unit, due to the nature of the crimes, Bolwerk said.
“We handle certain sexual assault cases that are more extensive than what is handled on a station level,” he said. “All of our detectives are specially trained to interview victims of these types of crimes.”
The defendant was apprehended the following day as deputies canvassed neighborhoods with a description of the suspect, and he was located and positively identified at Summit and Sunnyslope drives in Escondido, according to Bolwerk.
Bolwerk said that door-to-door salespersons are required to have a permit while conducting sales in any of the eight unincorporated areas that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is contracted with.
Donna Burns, a supervisor at the sheriff’s licensing department, could not verify whether Nitkin had a valid permit due to the search capability of the computer, which requires the name of the company in order to look up a salesperson’s permit.
But she said that the permits are issued in the form of a badge, are two-sided and have information such as the person’s name, address, age, birthday, height, weight and business name along with the type of merchandise being sold.
Permits expire after one year, and that date is also displayed.
When a person applies for a sheriff’s solicitor’s identification card, they must pass a background check before the permit is issued, she said.
Cities have their own laws regarding city permits for door-to-door sales.
Bolwerk said it’s never a good idea for people to open the door to someone they don’t recognize.
In one case, he said, a citizen told him that she would not open the door to a solicitor but rather allowed him to perform a demonstration on her porch as they conversed through the door.