Pennsylvania manhunt: Police say Cavalcante now armed following Monday night break-in

The convicted murderer has been at large since an Aug. 31 prison escape.

Lt. Col. George Bivens points at a map of the area delineated by law enforcement and their vehicles in the manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante, whose picture is inset.
Lt. Col. George Bivens shows the map of the area delineated by law enforcement and their vehicles in the manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante on Sept. 8. (Jessica Griffin/Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Chester County Prison via AP)

The manhunt for escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante is nearing the end of its second week as authorities in Pennsylvania have been unable to capture the convicted murderer who, they say, is now armed.

Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a Tuesday morning press conference that Cavalcante is now armed with a stolen .22 rifle equipped with a scope. A Chester County homeowner said the fugitive broke into his garage Monday evening and took the rifle. While that homeowner said he fired his pistol at the intruder, police said there was no evidence Cavalcante was injured.

“We consider him desperate, we consider him dangerous,” Bivens said. “I would suspect that he’s desperate enough to use that weapon.”

Authorities have defended their actions in the southeastern Pennsylvania manhunt.

Cavalcante’s escape

The escape of inmate Danelo Cavalcante, left, from a prison in West Chester, Pa., is seen in a screengrab from a video.
The escape of Cavalcante, left, from a prison in West Chester, Pa., is seen in a screengrab from a video released on Sept. 6. (Chester County district attorney via Facebook/handout via Reuters)

Cavalcante, 34, was sentenced in August to life in prison without parole for the 2021 stabbing of his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her two children. He is also wanted in his home country of Brazil for a 2017 killing tied to a car repair debt. Prosecutors accused him of murdering Brandao, also a Brazilian national, in order to stop her from telling authorities about his alleged connection to the previous killing.

On Aug. 31, Cavalcante crab-walked between two walls to escape the Chester County Prison before he was set to be transferred to a state facility. Security footage of his escape shows Cavalcante going from the recreation yard, up the walls, over the razor wire, across a roof and down to the ground, yet his absence was not detected for more than an hour following a head count. The corrections officer on duty at the guard tower during the escape, an 18-year veteran, was found to have had his personal cellphone on him at the time of the escape, in violation of prison policy, and was fired.

It was the second time this year an inmate escaped from the Chester County Prison using the same route. In May, authorities say 30-year-old Igor Bolte made it across the roof and cleared the prison only to be captured minutes later a half-mile away from the facility. Razor wire was installed following Bolte’s brief time as a fugitive.

“This escape was similar to the methodology to the escape by Cavalcante,” acting warden Howard Holland said. “Cavalcante escaped at the same location as Igor Bolte. But for Cavalcante there was razor wire to contend with before reaching the roof.”

The manhunt

Armed law enforcement officers stand guard as a line of cars drives by.
Law enforcement officers stand guard Tuesday as the search for Cavalcante continues in Pottstown, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Schools and roads have been closed as hundreds of people search for Cavalcante, who has been spotted multiple times over the previous fortnight by eyewitnesses and security cameras. The 5-foot, 120-pound fugitive has transformed his appearance, stolen a van and reached out to former acquaintances.

Law enforcement officials have said they’re using tactical teams, aircraft, tracking dogs and officers on horseback in the search. The agencies involved include the Pennsylvania State Police, FBI, ATF and the U.S. Marshals Service. Authorities have cited the densely wooded area, an underground tunnel system and large drainage ditches as reasons for the difficulty of the search. This week they raised the reward for a tip leading to his capture to $25,000.

Over the weekend, police say Cavalcante stole a delivery van from Baily’s Dairy and drove it 20 miles to East Pikeland Township, escaping the initial 8-square-mile search area. He went to the home of a former co-worker in an attempt to meet with him, but the man was out for dinner and contacted authorities after reviewing the footage from his Ring doorbell camera. Police found the abandoned vehicle in a field behind a barn, saying they believed it was abandoned due to low fuel.

The latest images of Cavalcante show him to be clean-shaven with a baseball cap, hooded sweatshirt, prison pants and white shoes. After Cavalcante stole the rifle on Monday evening, a green sweatshirt and white T-shirt were found nearby, and police said Cavalcante was last seen shirtless. Residents in the area received alerts asking them to stay inside with their doors, windows and vehicles secured.

TMZ reported early Tuesday that Dog the Bounty Hunter was considering traveling to Pennsylvania to offer his assistance in the manhunt. Per the outlet, “Dog has been making a lot of phone calls over the past several days — both to law enforcement sources he knows in PA and contacts he has elsewhere — in order to get up to speed on the situation.”