On Danelo Cavalcante: The Escape Made Easy

Prison escapee Danelo Cavalcante captured after 2-week manhunt, Pennsylvania police say

The two-week search for a convicted murderer who escaped from a Pennsylvania prison ended Wednesday after Danelo Cavalcante was captured, officials said. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police confirmed at a news conference that Cavalcante was apprehended just after 8 a.m., by members of a tactical team leading the manhunt. No shots were fired.

Cavalcante was arrested in a wooded area inside the perimeter set up by law enforcement, a law enforcement source told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton early Wednesday, noting that he was arrested without incident.

Images from CBS Philadelphia’s chopper showed a crew of officers in camouflage escorting Cavalcante. The escaped prisoner appeared to be wearing a Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt in the footage. It was taken after tactical teams converged on an area near their search perimeter in northern West Chester County, where an aircraft had picked up a heat signal overnight, Bivens said.

A “burglar alarm” sounded around midnight at a residence within the perimeter, according to police. Officers did not find Cavalcante, or anyone else, at the residence when they investigated the alarm, but the heat signal eventually leading to his capture was detected in that area after 1 a.m. At that point, the aircraft began to track it. However, lightning storms moving through the region prevented the craft from continuing its flight and tactical team members instead formed a new perimeter around the spot where the heat signal had shown up. The manhunt resumed Wednesday morning.

“They were able to move in very quietly they had the element of surprise,” Bivens said.

Danelo Cavalcante, 34, was arrested in a wooded area in Pennsylvania on Wednesday as he tried to crawl away from officers who had surrounded him.

More than 500 officers hunted him down after he escaped on 31 August.

He was sentenced to life in prison last month for killing his ex-girlfriend in front of her two children in 2021.

But just a week after he was sentenced, Cavalcante “crab-walked” between two walls and scaled a razor-wire fence to escape Chester County Prison, about 30 miles (50km) west of Philadelphia, where he had been awaiting transfer to a different facility.

The two-week manhunt spanned a large area of the state and put residents of Chester County on edge, with earlier sightings prompting police to advise residents to lock their doors and stay inside.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said Cavalcante was “apprehended with no shots fired” shortly after 08:00 local time (12:00 GMT).

He credited the “extraordinary work” of law enforcement and “a tremendous assist from members of the public” for Cavalcante’s capture.

Police told reporters that a search team of mounted patrols, dogs and aircraft had fanned out over the woods of South Coventry Township through rain and thunder.

Law enforcement were then drawn closer to Cavalcante by a burglar alarm at a home.

A Drug Enforcement Administration plane picked up a heat signal on the ground at 01:00, but the aircraft had to fly away because of the weather conditions.

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Watch: The Pennsylvania manhunt… two weeks in 100 seconds

A tactical team of around two dozen officers began closing in on the heat source at around 04:00, ultimately pinpointing Cavalcante four hours later.

Pennsylvania State Police Lt Colonel George Bivens told the news conference: "They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise.

"Cavalcante did not realise he was surrounded until that had occurred. That did not stop him from trying to escape.

“He began to crawl through thick underbrush taking his [stolen] rifle with him as he went.”

A US Customs and Border Protection unit from Texas, with at least one dog, was part of the tactical team.

The dog, a four-year-old Belgian Malinois named Yoda, “subdued” Cavalcante as he tried to make his getaway, leaving him with a “minor bite wound”.

“He continued to resist but was forcibly taken into custody,” said Lt Col Bivens.

Cavalcante was left with “a scalp wound” and will be “medically assessed” before being taken to a prison facility, said officials.

He will appear in court on a felony escape charge in the near future, Philadelphia’s attorney general said in a statement.

Danelo Cavalcante

Local media footage shows a handcuffed Cavalcante, in a dirty Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt, being escorted to an armoured black police van.

A large team of officers in camouflage uniforms is seen posing for photos with their captive before cutting him out of the hoodie and loading him into the vehicle.

Lt Col Bivens said he was “not bothered at all” that officers had taken the picture.

“Those men and women work amazingly hard through some very trying circumstances. They’re proud of their work,” he told reporters.

Chester County’s three commissioners said in a joint statement that Cavalcante’s capture “ends the nightmare of the past two weeks”.

They said prison officials had made “some immediate changes to bolster security in the prison”, including hiring new security contractors.

His method of escape was the same used by another inmate, Igor Bolte, in May. The glaring security lapse at the prison and the lone fugitive’s evasion of a manhunt involving officers equipped with night-vision goggles, dogs, drones and aerial support for a fortnight embarrassed the authorities.

While on the run, police said Cavalcante had tried to contact people he knew, including his sister. She did not help him and was later taken into custody for an immigration violation.

On Tuesday, they warned that the escaped murderer had entered an open garage in the area and fled with a .22 calibre rifle as the homeowner fired several shots in his direction.

Family members of the ex-girlfriend he murdered, Deborah Brandão, have been under 24-hour police protection.

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Cavalcante’s escape and arrest have made headlines in his native Brazil, where social media users celebrated the end of the manhunt.

In an interview with Brazilian news website G1, Brandão’s sister said that the arrest “brings a lot of relief”.

“We were afraid that he would seek revenge against my family,” Silvia Brandão told the outlet. “We were very afraid because you know what he is capable of.”

In addition to murdering Brandão, Cavalcante is accused of murdering a young friend over an unpaid debt in the central Brazilian state of Tocantins in 2017.

Additional reporting from Luis Barrucho, BBC Brasil