A nearly two-week manhunt for dangerous murder convict Danelo Cavalcante came to an end on Wednesday as he was captured in Pennsylvania.
Cavalcante was arrested without incident shortly after 8am on Wednesday, Governor Josh Shapiro confirmed during a press conference.
“I want to say thank you to the public for their vigilance,” Gov Shapiro said. “This has been a tough and concerning time. We want to thank you for your support to law enforcement and for your support to the efforts that led to this capture.”
The fugitive was found hiding under logs inside a shed at a business dealership in Pottstown with the rifle he had previously stolen from a home in South Coventry Township, FOX29 reports. Aerial footage of the capture showed dozens of Border Patrol tactical unit officers surrounding Cavalcante, who was wearing a grey Eagles hooded sweatshirt and dark pants.
Officers then cleaned Cavalcante’s bloodied face and escorted him out of the woods and into a SWAT tactical car, where they proceeded to cut off Cavalcante’s clothing.
On Tuesday night, a burglar alarm went off at a residence within the search perimeter. Deputies responded to the scene but did not immediately locate Cavalcante.
Then at 1am on Wednesday, thermal imaging from a DEA aircraft picked up a signal and officials deployed ground forces. The aircraft had been flying over the perimeter for several days but had not successfully picked up a signal because of high temperatures.
Lightening and extreme weather in the early morning hours of Wednesday complicated the operation but law enforcement secured the perimeter and resumed efforts this morning.
As law enforcement closed in on Cavalcante, a K-9 unit was released to immobilise the fugitive. Lt Col George Bivens said that Cavalcante continued to resist and “crawl away” even after he was surrounded by officers.
Mr Bivens said that Cavalcante was taken by surprise and did not have a chance to use the rifle he had stolen. Cavalcante sustained a minor bite wound from the K-9 during the ordeal.
Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan said one of the first calls made following Cavalcante’s escape was to the family of his murder victim Deborah Brandao.
The fugitive was transported to the Avondale barracks, where he is being processed. He will eventually be taken to a state correctional facility to serve a life sentence for Brandao’s killing.
“Our nightmare is finally over and the good guys won,” Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan said. “We never lost faith that this capture would take place and knew it was just a matter of time.”
Mr Bivens said that Cavalcante typically travelled in the late evening hours via creek beds. The Lt Col said that authorities will interview Cavalcante but no other charges are expected.
For 14 days, Cavalcante managed to elude hundreds of law enforcement officers, including tactical teams in full combat gear, tracking dogs, cops on horseback and on aircraft. Pennsylvania State Police Lt Col George Bivens had credited Cavalcante’s upbringing in rural Brazil for his ability to hide in the vast wooded terrains in Chester County.
The jailbreak on 31 August sparked fear among residents of the county’s suburbs, who were urged to keep their homes secure following a series of break-ins believed to be linked to Cavalcante. On 11 September, fears reached a fever pitch as Cavalcante stole a gun from a garage.
Cavalcante managed to get ahold of clothing, food, and even stole a van that he used to drive more than 25 miles from his original hiding spot in Longwood Gardens. He was spotted multiple times throughout the 14-day ordeal and the sightings repeatedly forced law enforcement to expand their search perimeter and prompted three school districts and a popular botanical garden to close.
Throughout his escape, Cavalcante showed up at the home of two former associates seeking help. The sightings helped law enforcement zero in on the area where Cavalcante was ultimately found.
Last month, Cavalcante was sentenced to life for murdering his ex-girlfriend in April 2021.
Cavalcante stabbed Brandao 40 times in front of her children and then went on the run before he was captured in Virginia. In Brazil, prosecutors in Tocantins state have also accused Cavalcante of “double qualified homicide” in the 2017 slaying of Válter Júnior Moreira dos Reis in Figueirópolis, which they said was over a debt the victim owed him for repairing a vehicle.
Cavalcante began his escape at around 8.50am on 31 August while other inmates in the exercise yard played basketball. He stretched his body to fit the length of a hallway and “crab-walked” onto the roof.
Cavalcante then climbed over razor wire and jumped from the roof. It was only nearly an hour later that correction officers realised an inmate was missing during a head count.
Chester County Prison acting warden Howard Holland said that Cavalcante’s jailbreak was similar to another inmate’s escape back in May. During that incident, a tower officer immediately reported the situation to prison staff and the inmate was apprehended within minutes.
The officer tasked with surveilling the area during Cavalcante’s escape did not report the incident. He has since been fired and his performance during the escape is being investigated by the state attorney’s office.