Escapee killer captured after 2-week manhunt, police say

FAN Editor

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. 

The heat signal was detected after 1 a.m., and 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. 

Cavalcante tried to escape by crawling “through thick underbrush,” Bivens continued, “taking his rifle with him when he went.” He said Cavalcante was subdued by a police dog and “forcibly taken into custody” when after resisting officers as they attempted to arrest him. Cavalcante sustained a “a minor bite wound,” according to Bivens, but there were no other injuries. The escapee was transported to a police station in Avondale for questioning, and will ultimately be moved to a state prison.

Authorities said Tuesday Cavalcante stole a rifle from a Chester County garage and evaded shots fired by the homeowner as he fled the scene. Cavalcante, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2021, escaped from Chester County Prison in West Chester at around 8:45 a.m. on Aug. 31.

Chester County Prison’s acting warden Howard Holland said that Cavalcante escaped from the exercise yard by climbing up a wall to the roof area, which is the same escape route that another inmate, Igor Bolte, used in May. Surveillance footage from the prison grounds, which authorities released about a week into their search, showed Cavalcante hoisting himself up from the ground by balancing between a fence and a brick wall, and using a crab-walk to climb upward until he disappeared from the camera’s view. His escape is under investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

“I think there are questions that Chester County officials are going to have to answer as to how this suspect was able to escape, particularly given the history at that jail,” said Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

A 34-year-old Brazilian national, Cavalcante was convicted last month of first-degree murder and sentenced to serve life in prison without parole for killing his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in April 2021. He allegedly stabbed her to death, and the woman’s young children witnessed the crime, CBS Philadelphia reported at the time, citing police. Cavalcante is also wanted in connection with a homicide in Brazil, according to the U.S. Marshal Service, and he was repeatedly described as “extremely dangerous” by law enforcement throughout that manhunt that involved hundreds of local, state and federal officers.

Cavalcante was seen multiple times in and around Chester County during the extended police search that led to school closures in the area and a temporary order to shelter in place. Initially, law enforcement focused the manhunt in the area surrounding Longwood Gardens, which is densely wooded and situated on top of a network of underground tunnels.

Search efforts escalated considerably this week. On Monday night, a man believed to be Cavalcante was spotted by a driver along the side of a road near Route 100, but had already vanished when the driver returned to check the roadside before they reported the sighting. Mud prints matching the soles of Cavalcante’s prison shoes were located and tracked to the shoes themselves, which Cavalcante had discarded. Around the same time, a resident in the area reported that a pair of work boots had been stolen from the porch outside their home.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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