Watch CBS News

Prison escapee Danelo Cavalcante armed with stolen rifle, flees when Pennsylvania homeowner shoots at him

Escaped prisoner armed with stolen rifle
Escaped Pennsylvania prisoner armed with stolen rifle, police say 01:54

Update: Police said Cavalcante was captured on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Read the latest here. Our earlier story is below.

The 13-day search for a convicted murderer who escaped from a Pennsylvania prison ramped up Tuesday after "significant developments" overnight, authorities said. Danelo Cavalcante is considered armed and extremely dangerous, and authorities said he stole a rifle from a Chester County garage and evaded shots fired by the homeowner as he fled the scene. 

Pennsylvania State Police said Cavalcante was last seen shirtless and wearing blue pants in South Coventry Township, which is within Chester County. 

"We have no other reason to believe he has other clothing accessible to him," Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. The .22 caliber rifle he was carrying at the most recent sighting has a flashlight, according to police.

Police again shifted the perimeters of their designated search area to account for additional sightings Monday night of a man believed to be Cavalcante, who appears to have changed clothes for at least the second time since the manhunt began. 

At around 8 p.m. Monday, a driver reported observing a man crouched along the roadside west of Route 100 near Chester County, but the man was gone by the time she had returned to the spot to verify what she had seen, Bivens said at a news conference Tuesday morning. At that point, troopers formed a perimeter around the area and found footprints left in some mud "that were identical to the prison shoes worn by Cavalcante," Bivens said. 

A pair of prison shoes was located later, and, around the same time, a nearby resident reported that a pair of work boots had been stolen from the front porch of their home.

About two hours later, a homeowner on Coventryville Road in Chester County reported that a man, believed to be Cavalcante, entered his garage while he was inside it and grabbed a .22 rifle leaning in the corner. The homeowner drew a pistol and fired at Cavalcante as he fled with the rifle, Bivens said, adding that authorities have no reason to believe Cavalcante was injured.

When law enforcement responded, they found a green sweatshirt and a white t-shirt in the driveway, both of which are believed to belong to Cavalcante. He was seen wearing a green hooded sweatshirt in home security footage over the weekend.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, who appeared with Bivens at the Tuesday afternoon news conference, told reporters, "We do feel like we've got this suspect contained in an area. We're putting all of our resources on it, all of our assets are being deployed." At the time, law enforcement was searching an area of about eight square miles.

Shapiro acknowledged that Cavalcante's escape was not the first in Pennsylvania this year, nor the first in Chester County.

"I think there are questions that Chester County officials are going to have to answer as to how this suspect was able to escape, particularly given the history at that jail," the governor said, adding, "I've got confidence, of course, in our correctional chief Laurel Harry, who runs our state system, and I know they're going to do everything in their power to make sure that they advise locals."

The search for Cavalcante on Monday evening focused on a corner of Chester County about 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia, where state police warned residents to keep their doors and windows locked as Cavalcante was believed to be in the area and armed. In a tweet, the Pennsylvania State Police said they were "pursuing" Cavalcante in South Coventry Township, Chester County.

Earlier, authorities had descended on nearby East Nantmeal Township, where Cavalcante was reportedly spotted, according to CBS Philadelphia

Prisoner Escape-Pennsylvania
Law enforcement officers continue the search for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante in Glenmoore, Pa., Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. Matt Rourke / AP

"He is armed," the police said. "Residents in the area are asked to lock all doors and windows, secure vehicles, and remain indoors. Do not approach."

Cavalcante, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2021, escaped from Chester County Prison in West Chester, about an hour from Philadelphia by car, around 8:45 a.m. on Aug. 31. The 34-year-old has been seen several times since then, by physical witnesses and on surveillance tapes, according to police. 

Police issued a shelter-in-place order in parts of East Nantmeal as they searched the area, CBS Philadelphia said. A resident said they got into a shootout with the escaped prisoner when he broke into their home and stole a gun, according to CBS Philadelphia.

Over the weekend, authorities said Cavalcante stole a van and used it to escape a search area established last week, traveling to the homes of two different people described as his former work associates in nearby neighborhoods.

As the manhunt continued Monday afternoon in an expanded search area, Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police warned that anyone who might have "offered assistance or who is contemplating assisting Cavalcante in any way" could expect to be prosecuted "fully for those actions."

"If you choose to assist us, you could be eligible for some or all of the reward that has been offered for Cavalcante's capture," added Bivens. 

Chester County increased the reward by $5,000 Monday for any information leading to Cavalcante's arrest, bringing the total amount to $25,000, Bivens announced.

Cavalcante on Saturday stole a transit van, which authorities discovered abandoned in East Nantmeal Township later that night, Bivens said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon. Investigators found keys left inside the vehicle and determined that the escapee did use the van, Bivens said. 

At around 9 p.m., Cavalcante attempted to contact an old work associate and asked to meet with him, but the person did not respond, according to Bivens. Doorbell surveillance video showing a man believed to be Cavalcante was officers' first indication that he had fled the Longwood Gardens area, where a perimeter had been established last week and search efforts were focused. 

The man seen on a Ring camera in East Pikeland Township early Sunday morning is believed to be the escapee Danelo Cavalcante, according to Upper Providence Township Police. Upper Providence Township Police

About an hour later, Cavalcante appeared at the residence of a second former work associate, who called her friend and reported the visit to state police.

Bivens said at Monday's news conference that police were not notified of the sightings overnight Saturday "until well after midnight," which would have been at least two hours after Cavalcante was last seen, at around 10:30 p.m. He did not respond directly to reporters asking whether police had identified people who may have assisted Cavalcante already.

Cavalcante's sister was taken into custody on Sunday. After declining to assist with the police search, Bivens said she was detained for overstaying a visa. "She has been entered into a deportation proceeding," he said Monday.

Cavalcante is a Brazilian national who is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish and speaks some English as well, authorities said. He was convicted of first-degree murder in August and sentenced to life imprisonment for fatally stabbing his 33-year-old former girlfriend in April 2021. 

Cavalcante is also wanted in connection with a homicide in Brazil.  

On Wednesday, police released surveillance video that showed Cavalcante using a crab-walk to climb the prison wall until he disappeared from view, escaping from the exercise yard on the property to the roof. That is the same route that another inmate, Igor Bolte, used to escape from the prison on May 19, officials said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.