Sun. Dec 3rd, 2023

A convicted murderer who escaped from authorities last month during a visit to Altoona Regional Medical Center was captured hours later in Antis Township.
Now, 29-year-old Christopher Patrick Gerlach is facing a multitude of charges stemming from the events of Nov. 16.
The charges were consolidated and filed before Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller on Friday as a result of a court order issued by Blair County Judge Thomas G. Peoples, Jr.
State police said the charges were consolidated because Gerlach’s escape, pursuit and eventual capture 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.
Gerlach, serving a life sentence for his role in a 1995 murder in Montgomery County, slipped away from authorities while in a hospital bathroom, using a second door that the guard was unaware of, police said.
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.
Penn State Altoona and other schools were put under lockdown as the escape unfolded, as was the medium-security Houtzdale prison.
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 Antis 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. Gerlach was taken into custody and was returned to state prison in Houtzdale. He was later transferred to SCI Huntingdon.
Gerlach is facing the following charges: 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.
State police said Judge Miller was in the process of arranging a date with the state Department of Corrections on an arraignment date with a preliminary hearing to follow at a later time.
Miller said this morning he is still working on having Gerlach brought up from Huntingdon for the arraignment. He said it could happen sometime later this week.
(Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed details to this story.)

By Rick