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How Police Captured Escaped Killer Danelo Cavalcante in Pennsylvania

4 minute read

After a nearly two-week manhunt, Danelo Cavalcante, a convicted murderer who escaped a Pennsylvania prison late last month, was taken into custody Wednesday morning.

Cavalcante, 34, escaped from Chester County Prison on Aug. 31. Pennsylvania State Police conducted a search across the surrounding heavily wooded areas, but authorities did not capture him until they identified an 8-to 10-square-mile perimeter in northern Chester County where Cavalcante was last spotted on Tuesday.

Authorities said they used heat-seeking technology and a police dog to help with the search after a burglar alarm went off in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the area where Cavalcante was last seen. Cavalcante had a stolen rifle in his possession when he was captured, but did not shoot, Lt. Colonel George Bivens said during a Wednesday press conference.

Cavalcante was serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole for an April 2021 murder before his escape. He is now facing a felony escape charge as well.

“I can assure you he will not escape while he is in our custody,” Bivens said during the press conference. “I have every confidence that they will be able to safely and securely house him as well.”

Here’s what to know. 

On the run for weeks

Surveillance video of Cavalcante’s prison escape on Aug. 31 captured him stretching himself horizontally before scaling up a wall and onto the roof of Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township. Cavalcante, who is 5-foot-2 and 120 pounds, then had to pass through more than one razor wire and scale the prison’s roof before escaping. An hour after his escape, prison guards noticed Cavalcante was missing and the prison went into lockdown.

On Aug. 16, Cavalcante was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for stabbing his former girlfriend, 33, to death. Police provided protection for the family of his ex-girlfriend during the search.

Manhunt Continues For Escaped Inmate Danelo Cavalcante West Of Philadelphia
Photographs of escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante taken on the night of September 9 from a door camera are prepared for display before a press conference with Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police on developments in the manhunt at Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania on September 10, 2023.Mark Makela—Getty Images

Pennsylvania State Police say that Cavalcante had a pattern of moving during the late evening and overnight while on the run. There were multiple sightings of the 34-year-old while the manhunt went on.

On Sept. 2, Cavalcante was spotted on a residential camera in an area less than two miles from the prison. On Sept. 4, he was seen on camera near Longwood Gardens, and then seen again near Phoenixville with a different appearance. Cavalcante’s sister had attempted to help him after he escaped prison, police said during the Wednesday morning press conference. She is now being deported to Brazil, where his family is from.

On Monday, a motorist said he spotted a man crouched along Fairview Road west of Route 100, where investigators found Cavalcante’s prison shoes. That same night, a homeowner said that they found Cavalcante stealing a .22 caliber rifle from their garage. The homeowner opened fire at him with a pistol, but Cavalcante remained unharmed. 

The search, which closed down some local schools, included helicopters and patrol cars, as police also searched heavily wooded areas near the prison. 

Police were offering a total reward of up to $20,000 for people who could share information about Cavalcante’s whereabouts, and repeatedly classified him as “extremely dangerous.”

How he was captured

Cavalcante was apprehended at around 8 a.m. on Wednesday, about 15 miles north of the Chester County Prison. 

Police were notified of Cavalcante’s presence after a burglar alarm went off shortly after midnight in northern Chester County, where there had already been an existing police presence.

Authorities initially did not find Cavalcante, but had a better idea of where he might be. Around 1 a.m., an aircraft, operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, pinpointed a “heat signal” that showed Cavalcante could be nearby. A thunderstorm made an assessment difficult, and the aircraft ultimately had to leave the scene.

Hours later, however, the manhunt continued as about 25 officers approached a wooded area they believed Cavalcante could be. Bivens said “Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that occurred, and later tried to “crawl through thick underbrush, taking his rifle with him as he went.”

Then, a police dog chased and bit Cavalcante before he was ultimately taken into custody, according to police. Cavalcante suffered no injuries outside of a minor dog bite, according to authorities. He was transferred to Avondale for processing and questioning.

Cavalcante is set to be taken to a state correctional institution, though authorities did not reveal the location, where he will continue to serve his sentence. He is also set to be arraigned on his felony escape charge.

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