Convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante climbed a wall at the Chester County jail and squeezed through barbed wire to get onto the roof of a building in his escape last week, authorities said on Wednesday. Prison officials have released video of Cavalcante’s daring escape.
Cavalcante used the same escape method as another inmate who broke out of prison in May, assistant warden Howard Holland confirmed. An officer stationed in an observation tower did not see Cavalcante as he exited a drill yard and ran across the prison’s roof. His absence was not discovered until almost 45 minutes later by a people count.
In video released Wednesday, Cavalcante can be seen climbing two walls about 1.5 meters apart and 4.5 meters high. From there he gained access to the roof through an opening at the top of the fence in the yard, which had been surrounded by barbed wire after the escape in May. Cavalcante was able to exit the prison grounds after scaling a second fence from the roof.
Chester County Jail officials release video of Danelo Cavalcante escaping the exercise yard
Internal and criminal investigations into Cavalcante’s escape are ongoing and prison officials will provide more information when they can. pic.twitter.com/Thg2YzAOQ0
— Chester County District Attorney’s Office (@chescoda) September 6, 2023
The week-long search for Cavalcante continued in the sweltering heat on Wednesday as police widened their perimeter again.
Another credible sighting was reported Tuesday night by a resident in the community of Pennsbury, which is east of where Cavalcante was sighted by wildlife cameras in Longwood Gardens Monday night. A search dog was hospitalized with a heat-related illness on Wednesday while combing the extended investigation area, officials said.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General is now leading the criminal investigation into Cavalcante’s escape. The prison is also conducting an internal investigation, including why the tower officer failed to notice the escape from a position overlooking the prison yards.
When 30-year-old prisoner Igor Bolte escaped from prison on May 19, he was noticed by the officer on duty. Assistance was called and Bolte was captured about five minutes later in a residential area about half a mile away.
“We are currently formulating plans to improve security,” Holland said on Wednesday, explaining that a consultant had been brought in to assess the prison’s needs. The courtyard from which Bolte and Cavalcante escaped will be completely surrounded by a cage-like dome. Additional surveillance cameras will also be installed and the prison will, among other things, adjust the position of officers in the outer courtyards.
Holland said the “human element” of Cavalcante’s escape was an important factor to consider in the investigation, as the installation of the barbed wire did not prevent a second escape.
“The only thing we didn’t account for was a failure on the human side,” Holland said. “We just focused on the physical infrastructure and not necessarily the human factor.”
Cavalcante, a native of Brazil, was able to escape less than two weeks after he was sentenced to life in prison for the 2021 murder of his ex-girlfriend.
State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said Wednesday he believes the ongoing manhunt will likely take a toll on Cavalcante.
“I’m pretty confident we’ll wear him down. Regardless of a person’s location and background, it’s hot, humid temperatures,” Bivens said. “He doesn’t live in an emergency shelter and has no way of getting food on a regular basis unless he can break in somewhere and get something. So it’s a tough existence out there for someone trying to do that.”
Investigators still believe Cavalcante’s goal is to move south, but Bivens declined to reveal details about where police suspect he may be headed. Authorities believe he may have difficulty navigating the area.
After the escape, the initial search covered a 2-mile radius of the Pocopson Township jail. Authorities then turned their attention further south to the community of East Marlborough, where Cavalcante was spotted at Longwood Gardens.
In black-and-white photos shared by the Pennsylvania State Police, Cavalcante wore baggy pants and a dark hooded sweatshirt. In another photo, he was shirtless and carrying a backpack and another bag at the 1,100-acre botanical garden closed to the public for a second day on Wednesday.
Two school districts, the Kennett Consolidated School District and the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, each canceled classes again Wednesday, citing the search for Cavalcante.
Bivens said on Wednesday the extended search range is now between RT. 926 North, Rt. 100 to the east, Hillendale Road to the south and Rt. 52 to the west.
Few details were available on Wednesday night’s sighting in Pennsbury Township. Bivens said a local resident spotted Cavalcante near a stream bed on his property and then saw him flee the area.
On Tuesday, Bivens said dense undergrowth in the search area made it difficult to contain Cavalcante within a perimeter. After he was seen in Longwood Gardens, police focused a 3-mile radius and warned residents in the search area to keep their doors, cars and windows locked and to check security cameras regularly.
During the first days of the search, Cavalcante was sighted four times within two miles of the county jail. On Sunday, he eluded a state trooper in pursuit after spotting Cavalcante from afar.
Early Saturday morning, Cavalcante was caught on a home security camera at the 1800 block of Lenape Road in Pocopson, just 1 1/2 miles from Chester County Jail. A Pocopson resident said he believes Cavalcante broke into his home late Friday night and saw him leave the house after stealing some food. Bivens said Wednesday he could not confirm whether Cavalcante was involved in the incident.
The search involved hundreds of law enforcement officers, including US Marshals, the FBI, and US Customs and Border Patrol, who were assisting state and local police.
Cavalcante was found guilty in August of killing 33-year-old Deborah Brandao in front of her two children at her home in Schuylkill Township. Brandao was stabbed more than 30 times and had one of her children sent to a neighbor for help during the attack. Cavalcante fled the home and drove to Virginia, where he was arrested a day later.
During his trial, prosecutors said Cavalcante stabbed Brandao to death because she threatened to contact police for information about his involvement in a murder in Brazil nearly six years earlier. Authorities there claim Cavalcante shot and killed a man in November 2017 after an argument over “an alleged debt related to the repair of a vehicle.” There has been an arrest warrant for Cavalcante in Brazil since June 2018.
Following his conviction last month, Cavalcante was temporarily held in the Chester County Jail before being transferred to a state prison.
Cavalcante is 1.50 meters tall and weighs around 55 kilograms, has curly black hair and brown eyes. According to investigators, his appearance has not changed significantly since his escape from prison. He speaks Portuguese and Spanish.
Anyone with information about Cavalcante can call (717) 562-2987 or 911. There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.