Escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante captured after 14-day manhunt

Danelo Cavalcante caught: An updated timeline of Chester County Prison escape

CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. (CBS) -- A tactical team of Pennsylvania State Police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel closed in on escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante as he lay in a wooded area of South Coventry Township on Wednesday morning.

The capture ended a manhunt for Cavalcante, a convicted killer who escaped from Chester County Prison at the end of August and had evaded hundreds of law enforcement personnel for two weeks.

Danelo Cavalcante's latest mugshot shows the drastic change in appearance over the 14 days the convicted murderer has been on the run since his escape from the Chester County Prison on August 31

Still armed with a .22 caliber rifle stolen from a homeowner's garage this week, Cavalcante tried to crawl away through the brush and escape from the tactical units closing in, officials said in a news conference Wednesday. Then a K-9 unit bit him and held him down, and he was taken into custody.

Danelo Cavalcante is captured by law enforcement in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023 as a manhunt for the escaped Chester County Prisoner entered its 14th day. Chopper 3/CBS News Philadelphia

"Our nightmare is finally over and the good guys won," Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan said.

Ryan first spoke of the escape nearly two weeks ago. At that time, it was a race to figure out how it happened.

The manhunt touched many lives on a deeply personal level, including Ryan, whose work during Cavalcante's murder trial sent him to prison for the rest of his life. 

Danelo Cavalcante's mugshot after he was taken back into custody following the manhunt in Chester County  Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

"My family and friends lived in the perimeter," Ryan said. "While it was happening in Pocopson and Birmingham Township, his trajectory to the east was close to my house and I was very concerned as well."

ALSO SEE: Danelo Cavalcante caught: What's next after escaped prisoner recaptured

Photos from the capture showed Cavalcante was wearing an Eagles hooded sweatshirt. It was not immediately clear where he got that hoodie, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said.

Cavalcante is currently being housed at SCI Phoenix, a maximum security prison in Montgomery County.   

A preliminary hearing for Calvacante is scheduled for Sept. 27. Sources at the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts said they expect Calvacante to waive the hearing.  

But if it goes on as scheduled, it would be moved to the Chester County Judicial Center in West Chester, according to sources. 

Police discuss recapture of escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante

How did Pennsylvania State Police capture Danelo Cavalcante? A dog and the "element of surprise" helped

Bivens explained that shortly after 12 a.m. Wednesday, a burglar alarm went off at a home near Prizer Road and Pottstown Pike (Route 100) in South Coventry Township. That location was within the search perimeter, Bivens said.

That alarm was investigated but Cavalcante was not found.

There were other tactical teams in an area nearby and a DEA plane overhead picked up a heat signal that it began to track, west of Route 100.

Tactical teams began to converge on the location where the heat source was moving, but then the aircraft had to leave the area and land due to overnight storms. Tactical teams then held the area during the storms to ensure there was no issue with an escape.

Where was Danelo Cavalcante captured?

The area where the heat signature was found is right behind Little's John Deere of Pottstown, a store in South Coventry Township.

The store took a hit as workers weren't able to get in Tuesday due to the search. On Wednesday, the manager told CBS News Philadelphia he was allowed to get back in, but the area was swarming with troopers.

Law enforcement sources say Cavalcante was under a pile of logs behind the property.

After 8 a.m., teams converged on the area where the heat signature was detected and found Cavalcante low to the ground. He tried to crawl away.

"They were able to move in very quietly, they had the element of surprise," Bivens said. "Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that had occurred."

"Excellence in law enforcement"

No one was injured in the capture and no shots were fired, Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a news conference Wednesday.

"The public, over the last 13 days, has had a chance to see what excellence in law enforcement means," Shapiro added. "What true, dedicated professionalism is all about. I couldn't be more proud to be standing up here today with these professionals from every level."

Multiple speakers at the news conference thanked members of the public who sent in tips and kept looking out for signs of the escapee.

Chopper 3 video: Pennsylvania State Police capture escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante

Images from Chopper 3 showed a crew of officers in camouflage and tactical gear escorting Cavalcante.

Family of victim, Deborah Brandao, among first to learn Danelo Cavalcante was caught

Among the first people to be notified about the capture of Danelo Cavalcante was the family of Deborah Brandao, the escaped prisoner's ex-girlfriend whom he killed in 2021

Before his escape, Cavalcante was set to be transferred to a state correctional institution after being sentenced to life without parole for fatally stabbing Brandao 38 times in front of her two young kids in the Phoenixville area in 2021.     

"One of the first calls we made upon learning about this capture was to the Brandao family, who as you could imagine, had been living in a complete nightmare," Ryan said in the news conference. "They are so grateful to the men and women who helped with this capture. They can finally sleep again."

One day after Cavalcante escaped from prison, his public defender filed a motion seeking a new trial or a new sentence, according to documents obtained by CBS News Philadelphia's Chief Investigator Joe Holden.

Attorneys for Cavalcante argued there was insufficient evidence presented at trial for a first-degree murder conviction. 

Judge Patrick Carmody quickly denied the requests for a new trial and sentencing. He said what Cavalcante did was one of the most horrific homicides the court has witnessed.

Cavalcante also had a warrant in a murder case in Brazil, where he arrived from several years ago as a fugitive, according to court documents.

Manhunt for Cavalcante left Chester County on edge for two weeks

The manhunt spanned several parts of Chester County after being spotted several times by residents or law enforcement.   

Early in the search, police broadcasted a message from Cavalcante's mother in Portuguese urging him to surrender.

Cavalcante was spotted 1.5 miles away from the prison in Pocopson Township days after escaping. He was then spotted in the Longwood Gardens area on two different occasions throughout the search. 

Escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante has been captured, Pennsylvania State Police confirm

Police believe Cavalcante, a native of Brazil, broke the perimeter set up by law enforcement through an underground tunnel or drainage ditch at Longwood Gardens. 

The manhunt for Cavalcante then shifted to northern Chester County after he stole a van from a dairy farm

Days later, Cavalcante changed his appearance and stole a .22 rifle from a homeowner in the East Nantmeal area. Police said the homeowner fired several shots at the convicted killer but were unsure if they hit him.

Owen J. Roberts School District, which has closed amid the manhunt announced that they will reopen Thursday now that Cavalcante has been apprehended.

How did Danelo Cavalcante escape Chester County Prison? Video showed him "crab-walking" out of an exercise yard.

Chester County officials were initially tight-lipped about how Cavalcante escaped the prison. 

Nearly a week after the search, officials released a video of Cavalcante using his arms and legs to push himself up a prison wall, which was the same way another inmate got out earlier this year. 

Once he was on the roof, Cavalcante got past additional layers of razor wire and a corrections officer failed to notice the inmate's escape. That corrections officer, who had worked at the prison for 18 years, was placed on administrative leave and eventually fired, the Chester County District Attorney's Office said. 

Cavalcante's sister has also been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and has been entered into a deportation proceeding, police said. Authorities said she was an "overstay" and chose not to assist in her brother's capture.

Chester County officials and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said anyone who helped Cavalcante will be prosecuted to the fullest extent. It's unclear if he had any help during his time on the run.

History of escaped inmates

Cavalcante's prison escape wasn't the first in Pennsylvania this year.

Michael Burham escaped the Warren County Jail and was on the run for more than a week before he was captured.

ALSO SEE: Before Danelo Cavalcante, a manhunt in the '90s had Pennsylvania on edge

Local, state and federal agencies were involved in the manhunt for Burham, who was a homicide suspect. 

In Philadelphia, two men – Ameen Hurst and Nasir Grant – escaped the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center in Holmesburg. They were both taken into custody after being on the run for several days. Several others were charged with helping in the escape. 

Read more

We and our partners use cookies to understand how you use our site, improve your experience and serve you personalized content and advertising. Read about how we use cookies in our cookie policy and how you can control them by clicking Manage Settings. By continuing to use this site, you accept these cookies.