What you need to know
- Danelo Cavalcante, who was previously convicted for murder, escaped Chester County Prison on Aug. 31.
- Before his capture, Cavalcante had stolen a rifle, fled a homeowner’s gunfire, tried to make contact with a former coworker, and ditched a stolen van in East Nantmeal Twp.
- Cavalcante told investigators he had planned to carjack someone and head to Canada as the manhunt intensified.
- After catching Cavalcante, officers took a photo with him. Experts say that was inappropriate.
- Here’s a timeline of the two-week search.
The escaped Chester County prisoner has been caught.
After a two-week manhunt by nearly 500 state, local, and federal law enforcement officials, police captured Danelo Cavalcante, 34, in an area near South Coventry Township early Wednesday morning.
He was hiding in a pile of logs and was taken in without incident.
News choppers spotted Cavalcante wearing a Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt when armed law enforcement agents escorted him to a police vehicle. They cut off his sweatshirt before loading him into a van.
“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,” Governor Josh Shapiro said at a Wednesday morning press conference.
Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said police, around midnight, were alerted by a burglar alarm at a home in the area within the search perimeter. Search teams were unable to find Cavalcante, but a DEA aircraft spotted a heat signature nearby around 1 a.m.
A storm forced the craft to land, but tactical teams consisting of state police officers and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents descended on the area.
Authorities waited until sunlight to further surround the heat signature and found Cavalcante under a pile of logs.
“They were moving very quietly — they had the element of surprise,” Bivens said. “Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until it had occurred. That did not stop him from trying to escape. He began to crawl through thick underbrush, taking his rifle with him as he went.”
A police K9 officer named Yoda rushed to Cavalcante and secured him. Bivens said Cavalcante suffered a minor bite wound on his head from the CPB tactical dog.
Not much is known still about how Cavalcante sustained himself during the manhunt. Bivens said law enforcement thwarted all outside “intent” to aid his escape.
Perihan Kaymak, 53, of Pocopson Township, said she’s glad the manhunt is over. She was getting “numb” to the situation.
“I kind of almost gotten used to him being out and about — it was almost becoming like, ‘Where’s Waldo,’” Kaymak said.
Because of her proximity to the county prison, Kaymak said, she was one of the first people to know that there was an escaped prisoner. A prison officer was riding around in a patrol car looking for Cavalcante when he stopped and informed Kaymak, who was out walking with a friend.
Kaymak went back to her house, which borders the woods, to close the windows. Once her husband and her daughter were home, they put on the alarms and went to bed.
Kaymak said her husband, Michael Loveless, heard and caught a glimpse of Cavalcante at 6 a.m. — the day after Cavalcante escaped.
“We have a gate on our deck and he heard it open up, spring open, and he heard footsteps stumbling onto our deck,” she said. “So he shot up and he looked out, and he saw the deck door was open, but out of the corner of his eyes he saw something like shoot by to the other side of the deck where you couldn’t see it anymore.”
They called the police and law enforcement agents descended on the property. Kaymak said the early morning dew left what appeared to be “tracks” coming from the woods, but she said police did not appear to investigate further.
Later on that night, Kaymak said there was another sighting about a mile away from their house.
“I hope the good people of Pennsylvania and indeed the folks all across this nation got a chance to see how government is supposed to work, how law enforcement is supposed to work — where we all come together, where we focus on the mission,” Shapiro said.
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office is now weighing which escape charges will be filed within the coming days.
“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 is currently in custody at the Avondale station where authorities, with the help of an interpreter, will interrogate him. Cavalcante is not fluent in English and speaks Portuguese.
Prior to his escape, Cavalcante was serving a life sentence for murdering his ex-girlfriend Deborah Brandão in 2021. He fled the prison the morning of Aug. 31 after scaling the walls of the exercise yard in an acrobatic fashion — using a similar method as another prisoner in May.
Hundreds of law enforcement officials from local, state, and national agencies descended on Chester County to contain Cavalcante in an area near Longwood Gardens.
While he managed to escape the initial containment perimeters and obtained a weapon, police tracked the Brazilian national to South Coventry Township.
Kaymak said she’s grateful for the extensive search, but she wouldn’t consider it successful. She was left frustrated and found the photo-op of the officers posing with Cavalcante to be “slightly distasteful.”
“There’s nothing to celebrate about this,” she said. ”This is a sad story where you know what his background is, he’s obviously done awful things and murdered his ex-girlfriend, and he’s obviously a very messed up individual. Nothing to celebrate. It’s just so sad. And I’m just glad that he’s not out there anymore scaring people.”
County officials said prison administrators are taking measures to ensure that prison flights such as this one don’t happen again.
“Chester County Prison officials have made some immediate changes to bolster security in the prison, have brought in security contractors to make permanent changes to the exercise yards, and are reviewing and — where needed — changing procedures for both security measures and communication to residents who live close to the prison,” the commissioners said.
Cavalcante will be taken to a state correctional institution after processing.
“One of the first calls we made upon learning about this capture was to the Brandão family, who as you can imagine, had been living in a complete nightmare,” District Attorney Deb Ryan said. “They can now finally sleep again.”
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