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

Danelo Cavalcante told investigators he knew authorities were on to him and needed to make his ultimate getaway.

Danelo Cavalcante is captured by law enforcement.

Danelo Cavalcante is captured by law enforcement. (6abc)

What you need to know

This story originally appeared on 6abc.

Authorities are learning more about how a Pennsylvania prisoner survived on the run and his plans to elude law enforcement indefinitely after his daring escape.

Danelo Cavalcante, 34, broke out of the Chester County Prison on August 31. He was captured 14 days later near the outer perimeter with the help of thermal imaging equipment in the air.

In his own words, Cavalcante told authorities he used the woodline to hide from law enforcement. It was a terrain he was familiar with.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“He was only staying in thick, thick woods. And as a matter of fact, he said on multiple occasions law enforcement officers almost stepped on him. We were only five or six feet away,” said Robert Clark, supervisor of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force in Philadelphia.

The escaped prisoner used the heavy brush near Longwood Gardens to hide. He was spotted several times on a trail camera at this location as the manhunt intensified.

But as the days went on he decided to take a chance and break the perimeter as hundreds of officers converged on his location.

Cavalcante ended up at a dairy farm where he was able to steal an unlocked vehicle with the keys still inside.

The prisoner was able to get to a barn in East Nantmeal Township, but he apparently ran out of gas.

He survived on watermelon and stream water and even covered his fecal matter to avoid detection.

Cavalcante told investigators that he knew authorities were on to him and needed to make his ultimate getaway — and he planned to.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

His endgame was to carjack somebody and get to Canada, and that’s why he held onto a rifle that he stole from a homeowner on Monday night.

“He said law enforcement presence was becoming so heavy in the past couple of days. He knew he had to get out of there. He intended to within 24 hours to carjack somebody,” said Clark.

Cavalcante also expressed a desire to get down to Puerto Rico.

As for how he got clean-shaven over the weekend, he told police that there was a razor in a backpack that he obtained along the way.

Cavalcante said he had no help in avoiding police and he did not contact family either.

“He knew he couldn’t go to certain family members because he expected them to be under surveillance, or he suspected that we had already talked to them,” said Clark.

Cavalcante told police the decision to steal a rifle out of a homeowner’s garage was a calculated one.

“He’d said that he had surveilled that house for a little while. So most of the houses that he broke into, it wasn’t just an impulsive decision. He had tried to surveil them for a little while just like the spot in the perimeter he broke out. He said he watched that spot in the perimeter and determined he thought it was the best possible time for him to go,” said Clark.

Cavalcante was arraigned at the Avondale barracks on an escape charge, according to the office of Judge Matthew Seavey.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Sept. 27.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal