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Escapee caught in Antis bound on charges stemming from incident

A convicted murderer who eluded authorities for three hours last November before his capture in Antis Township was bound for county court on several charges yesterday as a result of his preliminary hearing.
Christopher Patrick Gerlach, 29, escaped from authorities on Nov. 16 during a morning visit to Altoona Regional Medical Center. At the time, Gerlach was a prisoner at SCI Houtzdale. Since his recapture, he was transferred to SCI Huntingdon. Gerlach is currently serving a life sentence for his role in a 1995 murder in Montgomery County.
Former Blair County DA Dave Gorman represented the prosecution at the preliminary hearing yesterday morning. Although Gorman turned over the reins to DA Richard Consiglio earlier this week he remains with the district attorney’s office as a prosecutor. Gerlach was represented by a public defender, Joel Peppetti.
Gerlach’s December arraignment and yesterday’s hearing were held before Magisterial Judge Fred Miller as a result of a court order that consolidated all charges against him because the crimes allegedly occurred in three different jurisdictions.
After his escape, Gerlach tied up two women and stole a car before he was recaptured after a three-hour manhunt. He was eventually apprehended in Antis Township at a residence on Grandview Road.
He got away from authorities while in a hospital bathroom. Police said he used a second door that the guard did not know existed. Police said Gerlach, who was unshackled, modified his prison jumpsuit to make it appear that he was a hospital orderly, then walked casually out one of the hospital’s main entrances and through a parking lot.
When his escape was discovered, a hospital employee spotted him, and a chase through town began. Police said he tied up two women in separate homes, stole a vehicle belonging to one of them and changed his outfit twice to escape detection.
Gerlach was caught hiding in the basement of a third home, police said.
Prior to his capture, Gerlach had broken into residences in Altoona and Logan Township. Police said an Antis Township resident arrived in the area of her home while police were conducting search operations. She asked if some of the officers would accompany her to her residence. Police went to the woman’s home and checked the house. They found Gerlach hiding in the basement and he was taken into custody.
Gerlach was charged with four counts of burglary, a first-degree felony; one count of robbery of a motor vehicle, first-degree felony; one count of escape, third-degree felony; four counts of criminal trespass, one count, third-degree felony, two counts, misdemeanor; two counts of theft by unlawful taking, one count, third-degree felony, two counts, misdemeanor and two misdemeanor counts, unlawful restraint.
Since Gerlach’s escape and recapture, two state corrections officers resigned their positions. They had been put on suspension after the incident. State prison officials did not identify the corrections officers.
Judge Miller said Gerlach was bound to Blair County Court of Common Pleas on all charges except one count of burglary. That charge was dismissed.
Miller said a formal arraignment would take place in four or five weeks at the Blair County courthouse in Hollidaysburg.
Bail for Gerlach had previously been set at a total of $750,000 unsecured. After his preliminary hearing, Gerlach was remanded to SCI Huntingdon.
(Editor’s note: Details from a previous Associated Press article were used in this story.)