Brothers charged in connection with overdose death

Two brothers from Polk have been charged in connection with the overdose death of their neighbor last year.

Franklin state police said in a criminal complaint they responded Jan. 31, 2021, to a residence on Dennison Run Road in Victory Township for reports of a deceased man.

The complaint said that through the investigation, it was determined the man had died due to a drug overdose and his neighbors, brothers Walter Novak, 56, and Ernest Novak, 58, had traded him the pills he overdosed on in exchange for marijuana.

The dead man’s wife told police at the scene that her husband had worked the night shift from midnight on Jan. 29 into the morning of Jan. 30 and she had found him “passed out” in his work truck in the driveway and been unable to wake him, the complaint said.

At about 3 a.m. Jan. 31, the man came into the house and went to sleep in a chair in the living room, the complaint said. Later, at about 10 a.m., he went outside to smoke a cigarette, according to the complaint.

While the man was outside, Walter Novak spoke to him, then Novak left and the man came back inside the house, the complaint said.

When he returned to the house, the man went straight to the master bathroom, where he was found dead several hours later, according to the complaint. The man’s wife said her husband’s cell phone was found beside him on the vanity in the bathroom, the complaint said.

The woman added that Walter Novak is a neighbor and described to police where he lived, the complaint said.

In the master bedroom, police found numerous pieces of drug paraphernalia used for ingesting marijuana in plain sight and the man lying dead in the bathroom, the complaint said.

In the dead man’s pants pocket was a pack of cigarettes, and inside the pack of cigarettes was a clear sandwich baggie containing blue pills, the complaint said.

The trooper also found text messages on the man’s phone from “Walt” dated Jan. 27, 2021, the complaint said. The phone number associated with “Walt” was later discovered to be Walter Novak’s number, according to the complaint.

The text messages showed the man had texted “Walt” and arranged a trade of “green” for “blue,” which Walter Novak later told police meant that they agreed to “trade valium for weed,” the complaint said.

Police obtained a search warrant for the Novak residence and spoke with Walter Novak, who said he last saw the man around 9:30 to 9:45 a.m. that morning while he was on his way to Barkeyville, the complaint said

Novak said he saw the man on the porch and stopped to talk to him, the complaint said. The man seemed drowsy and said he just woke up, Novak told police, according to the complaint.

Novak noted he hadn’t exchanged any drugs with the man while they were on the porch, the complaint said.

Novak explained that his brother, Ernest Novak, had come across the blue pills, “valium,” which he offered to trade to the man who died for marijuana and he believed they made a trade at some point, the complaint said.

Walter Novak added that Ernest Novak probably didn’t have a prescription for the pills, according to the complaint.

Walter Novak said that about a month before, Ernest Novak had traded the man about 20 blue pills for marijuana, the complaint said. He added Ernest Novak, who has no larynx and can’t smoke, got the marijuana for him, according to the complaint.

Walter Novak said he didn’t know where his brother got the pills or where the man who died got the marijuana, the complaint said.

Walter Novak said he believed his brother would admit to trading the pills for marijuana, the complaint said.

More than 800 pills with various markings were seized from the Novak residence, including 803 pills identified as diazepam and two pills identified as tramadol, the complaint said.

When the autopsy report and toxicology reports came back, the cause of the man’s death was determined to be “drug toxicity predominantly involving fentanyl,” the complaint said.

The blue pills found in the dead man’s pocket were confirmed to have fentanyl in them, the complaint said.

Both Novaks have been charged with a felony count of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver and a misdemeanor count of possession of controlled substances.

They were arraigned Thursday, and their preliminary hearing is scheduled Wednesday in Venango County Central Court.