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Clerk dies after attack, store fire

A clerk at an X-rated video store was killed Sunday morning in an attack and fire in his business.

The name of the man, who is in his late 40s, was not released by police Sunday because relatives have not been notified. He worked at the Blue Garter, a pornographic video and bookstore at 2744 Central Ave.

"We're assuming robbery is the motive, but we don't know that for sure," said Robert Gluck, 69, a Palm Harbor resident who owns the building and several adult establishments. "The fire was set to cover somebody's tracks."

Bill Doniel, police spokesman, said the man suffered trauma to his body and may have been beaten. An autopsy will be performed today.

Neighbors reported the fire at 12:28 a.m. Sunday, nearly a half hour after the Blue Garter closed. One neighbor said he saw teenagers loitering behind the building around closing time, then he smelled smoke 10 minutes later.

Another neighbor, Roger Bogers, who owns the adjacent Mr. Sun Liquors, knew something was wrong when he saw the clerk's car in the parking lot as the building burned. Bogers said he tried to get into the building, but the doors were locked, so he dialed 911.

Firefighters found the clerk bleeding, but alive, inside. He was taken to Bayfront Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:51 a.m.

Jerry Gluck, 32, son of Robert Gluck, runs the Blue Garter with his brother and sister.

He said a door was forced open and the clerk, whose name he recalled as Herb, pressed an alarm near the cash register. A surveillance video normally in operation was not working, he said.

"I just wish if he was trying to save the store from being robbed that he just gave them the money," Gluck said.

He said he does not know whether money was taken, but said police seized the register as evidence.

The Blue Garter has been open since 1982. Several years ago, its owners challenged in court St. Petersburg's zoning requirements for sex-oriented businesses.

In 1990, then-owner Robert Gluck was accused of operating a brothel at the location. According to authorities, women performed sexual acts for money in a back room of the establishment. The charge against Gluck was dismissed and he was placed on probation.