Police release footage of Chester County prison escapee’s acrobatic breakout

A Chester County prison guard, who was in the tower at the time, has been placed on administrative leave.

Local, state, and federal law enforcement in Pennsylvania still have nothing to show for their massive manhunt for the escaped Chester County prisoner — except for new video footage that reveals how the convicted murderer broke free.

Video released Wednesday shows Danelo Cavalcante, 34, using his arms and legs to scale the prison’s exercise yard walls.

Acting prison warden Howard Holland confirmed a Philadelphia Inquirer story which reported that Cavalcante used a similar breakout method as Igor Bolte, a May escapee. Officials thought the escape route was handled after contractors were brought in to fix the issues.

“The improvement consisted of additional razor wire being placed in the yard area at the wall where the escape occurred to block access to the roof,” Holland said.

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There are two parallel investigations

Cavalcante’s escape was discovered after an inmate count following their time at the exercise yard.

In addition to the current criminal probe into Cavalcante’s escape, there is also an internal investigation. An officer was present in the guard tower during the breakout, but missed Cavalcante making it over the fence. The officer in charge has been placed on administrative leave.

The tower officer’s lack of actions are a key focus, Holland said.

“We’re currently formulating plans for enhanced security to include, as previously mentioned, fully enclosing all outside exercise yards, installing additional security cameras, adjusting officers’ positions when inmates are in exercise yards, and additional security assets, which will enhance overall security of the prison,” Holland said.

Cavalcante, who stands five-feet-tall, has managed to evade capture for nearly a week now despite the huge police presence and extensive use of state-of-the-art technology.

A combination of the thick brush and scorching temperatures have complicated the search. The excessive heat has made thermal cameras unusable and exhausted K9 officers.

“An issue we did experience during that search illustrates some of the challenges our people are dealing with,” Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said. “In spite of precautions, one of our tactical search dogs suffered a heat-related emergency and remains hospitalized today. We are hopeful that he will eventually make a full recovery.”

Police have received numerous credible sightings and have expanded their search perimeter. Bivens remained confident that the operation is taking a toll on Cavalcante.

“It’s hard enough as one of the law enforcement officers out there, it’s hard enough for them navigating in this terrain, in this hot, humid weather — but imagine if you’re being hunted,” Bivens said. “It adds a whole different level of stress as opposed to you’re out there trying to find somebody. That level of stress has to be wearing on him.”

Cavalcante was last seen carrying a backpack and a sling duffle pack with unknown supplies. Local law enforcement and the Pennsylvania State Police have tapped the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Customs Border Patrol for support. The reward now stands at $20,000 for any information that leads to Cavalcante’s capture.

Officials closed down the Kennett Consolidated and the Unionville-Chadds Ford school districts on Wednesday out of an abundance of caution. It is unclear whether school administrators will move to close school again.

“We will be having a discussion with superintendents, I’m sure, at some point today,” Bivens said.“That has not occurred. What I would tell you is that those discussions are intended to give the superintendents as much information as possible so that they can make an informed decision.”

Cavalcante was serving a life sentence for fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend Deborah Brandão in 2021. The Brazilian national is also wanted for a 2017 murder in Brazil.

“We continue to ask for the public’s help by familiarizing themselves with a photograph and description of Cavalcante to check security cameras they have and to call us immediately if they believe they may have seen Cavalcante,” Bivens said. “Again, we ask residents to please secure homes, outbuildings, and vehicles. Cavalcante has clearly already obtained some clothing and unknown other supplies, and we want to minimize any opportunity to obtain anything more.”

Bivens said he believes Cavalcante is heading south and that he has “some ideas” as to his destination. But Bivens was not prepared to elaborate on it just yet.

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