Escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante taken into custody after 2 weeks on the run

Danelo Cavalcante had been on the run since he broke out of the Chester County Prison on Aug. 31.

Thursday, September 14, 2023
Escaped murderer taken into custody after 2 weeks on the run
Escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante taken into custody after 2 weeks on the run

SOUTH COVENTRY TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante is now in police custody following an extensive 14-day search throughout Chester County, Pennsylvania State Police said.

Cavalcante was captured just before 8:15 a.m. Wednesday in a wooded area north of Prizer Road and west of Route 100 in South Coventry Twp.

According to Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens, a series of events that ultimately led to the escaped inmate's capture began shortly after midnight Wednesday.

A security alarm went off at a home within the search area shortly after midnight. Nothing was found there, but it brought additional crews to the scene.

The Action Cam and Chopper 6 were there as Danelo Cavalcante was placed into a police vehicle on Wednesday afternoon.

Then, an aircraft provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration picked up a heat signal using thermal technology near the area of Prizer Road and Route 100 at about 1 a.m.

The aircraft had to land due to severe weather, but a tactical team secured the area on the ground until the storm passed.

First look at rifle stolen by the now-captured prisoner Danelo Cavalcante

First look at rifle stolen by the now captured prisoner Danelo Cavalcante

The searchers on the ground got into a ring that was tight enough that "they were within eyesight of each other on the inside perimeter," said Robert Clark, supervisor of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force in Philadelphia.

"They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise. Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that had occurred," Bivens said.

That did not stop him from trying to escape. He began to crawl through thick underbrush taking his rifle with him as he went.

One of the Customs and Border Control Teams released a K-9, named "Yoda," to stop him.

As authorities closed in on Danelo Cavelcante, and escaped murderer who spent two weeks on the run after breaking out of a Pennsylvania prison, he made one last attempt to get away

The dog subdued him in a struggle, leaving Cavalcante with a bleeding scalp wound.

He was first bitten on the forehead, then the dog clenched his thigh and held on, Clark said. That's when Cavalcante submitted, and officers got him in handcuffs.

"I think he was in pain at that point," Clark said. "He was probably in excruciating pain."

No shots were fired during his capture.

Cavalcante was able to steal several items during his 14-day escape.

He was seen bloodied while wearing a gray Philadelphia Eagles hoodie after he was taken in to custody on Wednesday. It is not yet known where he obtained the clothing.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said he wants to help the person who owned the shirt.

"Folks, whoever had their Eagles hoodie stolen. If you could let us know, I'll do my best to get you one of those new Kelly green ones," Shapiro said during the press conference.

Video from Chopper 6 showed an armored vehicle with Cavalcante arriving at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks at Avondale.

A handful of officers pulled Cavalcante from the back of the vehicle and quickly led him into the building. He was handcuffed and wrapped in what appeared to be a thermal blanket.

He was arraigned on Wednesday and will appear in court next week, officials say. It is also unclear if he will remain at the state correctional facility in Skippack Twp., Montgomery County (SCI Phoenix) indefinitely.

Investigators interviewed him about his time on the run before taking him to SCI Phoenix.

Escaped inmate Danelo Cavalcante arrives at Pennsylvania State Police barracks after capture

"One of the things he said at the end was he knew he had to pay for what he had done but he wasn't willing to pay for it with his life," said Clark.

Sources tell Action News that Cavalcante said he received no help escaping from the Chester County prison or while he was on the run.

He told law enforcement that he survived on watermelon from a patch he found as well as stream water.

Cavalcante moved at night hid amongst thick vegetation to avoid detection. He also said he was almost stepped on by law enforcement one time during the search.

Sources say Cavalcante also told authorities he covered his own fecal matter along his trail to avoid police.

"He described things such as going to a watermelon patch, surviving on watermelons, drinking stream water, covering his fecal matter, so we couldn't detect him," recalled Clark.

READ | Escaped Pa. prisoner had plans to carjack driver and head to Canada as manhunt intensified

Escaped Pa. prisoner had plans to carjack driver and head to Canada as manhunt intensified

Cavalcante knew police were closing in on him, according to Clark, and he was planning to carjack someone soon to flee the country. He said he wanted to head to Canada before later going to Puerto Rico.

Timeline and Interactive Map: The manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante

"The capture of Cavalcante ends the nightmare of the past two weeks, and we thank every single law enforcement official at the regional, state and federal level that was out in all weather conditions, all day and night - as well as everyone in the incident command center, our County Department of Emergency Services and County Sheriff's Office - for their immense efforts," Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline said in a statement.

Cavalcante escaped from the Chester County jail in southeastern Pennsylvania on Aug. 31 by crab-walking up between two walls that were topped with razor wire, then jumping from the roof and dashing away. He had been awaiting transfer to state prison after being sentenced days earlier for fatally stabbing his girlfriend, and is wanted in connection with another killing in Brazil.

Stunning video shows how convicted murderer escaped Chester Co. Prison

Authorities said over the weekend that Cavalcante had slipped out of the initial search area, shaved and changed his clothing, stole a vehicle to travel miles to seek aid from former co-workers in the northern part of the county, and then abandoned the vehicle, at least in part because it was low on fuel.

Authorities have declined to say how they think Cavalcante slipped out of the first search area, and officials have pushed back against questions about whether they blew a chance to catch him.

Then, late Monday, a motorist alerted police to a man matching Cavalcante's description crouching in the darkness along a line of trees near a road in northern Chester County. Police found footprints and tracked them to the prison shoes identical to those Cavalcante had been wearing. A pair of work boots was reported stolen from a porch nearby.

State police said they believe he was looking for a place to hide when he saw an open garage. There, he stole a .22-caliber rifle and ammunition, and fled when the homeowner - who was in the garage - drew a pistol and shot at him several times, state police said.

Doorbell images show escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante has changed appearance and fled search area

That led hundreds of law enforcement personnel to search an area of about 8 to 10 square miles near South Coventry Township, roughly 30 miles northwest (50 kilometers) of Philadelphia.

Cavalcante's escape was big news in Brazil, where prosecutors in Tocantins state say he is accused of "double qualified homicide" in the 2017 slaying of Válter Júnior Moreira dos Reis in the municipality of Figueiropolis, which authorities say was over a debt the victim owed him in connection with repair of a vehicle.

Pennsylvania authorities even broadcast a recording of Cavalcante's mother speaking in Portuguese imploring him to surrender peacefully.

Cavalcante received a life sentence in Pennsylvania in August for killing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her children in 2021. Prosecutors say he murdered her to stop her from telling police he was wanted in the Brazil killing. He had been arrested in Virginia after Brandao's killing, and authorities say they believe he was trying to return to Brazil.

The prison tower guard on duty when Cavalcante escaped was fired. The escape went undetected for more than an hour until guards took a headcount.

Owen J. Roberts School District to reopen Thursday

After being closed due to the ongoing manhunt for Cavalcante, the Owen J. Roberts School District announced that it will reopen Thursday.

"After discussions with state and local law enforcement, I am also happy to share that all schools and offices in our district will reopen tomorrow morning, with classes and transportation continuing as regularly scheduled," Superintendent Will Stout said.

Stout went on to say law enforcement may still have a presence in our community as they continue their investigation.

Longwood Gardens reopens

Longwood Gardens reopened to the public on Wednesday morning.

The grounds were inside the search zone at one point, and at one point Cavalcante was recorded on a trail camera on the property.

In re-opening, management said the past few days have been a reminder of the "important role Longwood plays in the community as a place for respite."

The Associated Press contributed to this report