Houtzdale man charged with theft waives preliminary hearing

A Houtzdale man who allegedly threatened a clerk as he took money from an open cash register waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday during centralized court in Clearfield County.

Robert Stephen Gavlak II, 26, is charged with a misdemeanor count of theft by unlawful taking. He remains in the Clearfield County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail.

The charges stem from an incident on Dec. 22 at the Dollar General Store in Houtzdale.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, police received a report that a person had just robbed the store and fled on foot. Police viewed surveillance footage that showed a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with the hood up over a winter hat. He paid for an item at the register then lingered in the store before going back to the register where he bought another small item. When the cash drawer was open, the man can be seen in the video diving across the register and pulling money from the drawer. The cashier is seen grabbing the arm of the man with her left hand as she is trying to shut the drawer with her other hand.

She told police that he twice said “let me in there or I’ll stab you.” After a few seconds, the cashier let go and the man sprinted out of the store, fleeing on foot with a little more than $200, according to the complaint. Both the cashier and a witness in the store identified the man as Gavlak who was a regular customer.

Gavlak was located about three hours later when he returned to his residence. He was taken into custody and interviewed at the police barracks. Officers said he confessed to committing the crime, stating he had a drug addiction and needed money. He told police that immediately after the theft he spent the money trying to buy drugs. He also admitted to using drugs earlier that day.

When asked why Gavlak was charged with theft instead of robbery, District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. explained that no one saw a knife and he took the money from the register, not the clerk.