Escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante was captured Wednesday morning after authorities tracked him down using thermal heat technology from an aircraft before a U.S. Border Patrol tactical unit dog ultimately pinned him down, authorities said.
After almost two weeks on the run, Cavalcante, a 34-year-old convicted killer who broke out of prison Aug. 31, was arrested, found wearing a Philadelphia Eagles hoodie.
He was transported in a convoy to the Avondale State Police barracks where he arrived wrapped in a foil blanket shortly before 9 a.m., Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a news briefing.
Cavalcante did not have any significant injuries, except for a minor dog bite, he said.
Chester County authorities were heard announcing Cavalcante was in custody in a broadcast radio call at 8:18 a.m.
“Chester County all stations radio room, Chester County government and various other agencies working on the prisoner escape. I’m proud to announce the subject is in custody. Repeating, subject is in custody,” a Chester County official said.
A photo showed Cavalcante being taken into custody following his capture.
How Cavalcante was captured
The arrest comes a day after police set an 8- to 10-square-mile perimeter in northern Chester County.
Bivens said that shortly after midnight, a burglar alarm went off at a residence within the perimeter, which was investigated but with no sighting of Cavalcante.
A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration aircraft picked up a heat signal around 1 a.m. Wednesday, started to track it and tactical teams converged upon the area.
Bivens said that a storm with lightning caused the aircraft to leave the area and briefly slowed down the tracking process. Tactical teams secured that area and held it overnight until the aircraft could return, he said.
On Wednesday morning, shortly after 8 a.m., tactical teams converged upon the heat source in a wooded area west of PA 100.
The teams had “the element of surprise,” Bivens said.
“Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that occurred,” he said. “He began to crawl through thick underbrush, taking his rifle with him,” Bivens said, noting Cavalcante still had a .22 caliber firearm that he had stolen Monday night.
The Border Patrol Tactical Unit at the scene had a dog with it that ultimately subdued Cavalcante and team members from BORTAC and Pennsylvania State Police moved in.
“He resisted but was taken into custody and no one was injured,” Bivens said.
He said the surprise attack and use of the Border Patrol dog played a “large role” in preventing Cavalcante from using the firearm.
Medical personnel looked at the bite and Cavalcante was taken to the Avondale station for further processing and interviewing. He will later be transported to a state correctional institute to serve out his life sentence.
“It is a true pleasure to stand here this morning and talk to all of you about bringing this manhunt to a successful conclusion and without getting anyone else hurt, most importantly,” Bivens said.
When asked by a reporter why officers took a photo of Cavalcante following his arrest, Bivens said he was aware of the photo op.
“Those men and women worked amazingly hard through some very trying circumstances. They’re proud of their work. I’m not bothered at all by the fact that they took a photograph with him in custody,” he said. “I say thanks to them and good job.”
His escape and sightings
A sprawling manhunt was launched after the 5-foot-2, 120-pound Cavalcante was caught on surveillance footage crab-walking up a pair of parallel walls onto the roof of Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township to escape Aug. 31.
An 18-year veteran guard who missed spotting Cavalcante’s escape has since been fired, a county spokesperson said. That guard, who has not been identified, had a cellphone in the tower, a violation of Chester County Prison policy, according to the county representative.
Cavalcante was convicted Aug. 16 of first-degree murder for fatally stabbing a 33-year-old former girlfriend Deborah Brandão and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is also wanted in his native Brazil, in connection with a 2017 slaying there.
For almost two weeks he eluded police, as officials searched for him in a heavily wooded area that likely slowed both sides of the search.
Some local schools closed, helicopters scoured the area, police provided 24-hour protection to the family of his victim, and patrol cars blared audio of Cavalcante’s mother appealing to him in Portuguese to surrender.
The fleeing killer had been spotted numerous times by surveillance cameras in the search area. He had also managed to shave and change clothes during his time on the outside, images of the escapee have shown.
Cavalcante managed to get into and drive a white 2020 Ford Transit van with a refrigeration unit on the top, before dumping it in a field behind a barn in East Nantmeal Township on Sunday, state police said.
Several sightings of Cavalcante were reported Monday evening.
A motorist reported seeing a man crouched in the wood line along the south side of Fairview Road west of Route 100 and responding teams later found his prison shoes.
That same night, a call came in from a homeowner who reported opening fire at Cavalcante after finding him stealing a rifle in the garage. Police said the inmate was unharmed in that incident.
The perimeter set Monday stretched from PA 23 to the north to PA 100 to the east, Fairview to the south and County Park Road to the west.
What’s next for Cavalcante
Around 2 p.m. Wednesday, Calvacante was seen being transported to the state police facility to prison.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry said Cavalcante will be taken to a state correctional institution where “he will be housed for the foreseeable future,” though it’s not clear which facility that is.
He was arraigned Wednesday on a felony escape charge that was filed Aug. 31.
At his arraignment, prosecutors sought for Cavalcante to remain in custody, as he’s already been sentenced to life behind bars, Henry said. Magisterial District Judge Michael Iacocca denied bail for Cavalcante and scheduled his next hearing for Sept. 27, according to a charging document.
Sarah Brandão, the sister of Cavalcante’s murder victim, expressed gratitude for the support her family received during the manhunt.
She said on social media Wednesday that her family is focusing on “processing everything that has happened while taking care of ourselves.”
“The last two weeks have been extremely painful and terrifying as they have brought back all the feelings of losing my sister and the idea that the perpetrator could hurt us again,” she said. “Therefore, I kindly ask that our privacy be respected so that we can collect ourselves and figure out how to overcome this tragic experience.”
Chester County commissioners said in a statement Wednesday that Cavalcante’s capture “ends the nightmare of the past two weeks,” and thanked the various law enforcement agencies that mobilized to find him.
The commissioners, Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline, said the county’s prison officials have made “some immediate changes to bolster security,” have brought in security contractors to make permanent changes to exercise yards, and are reviewing changing procedures for security measures and communication to residents who live near prison grounds.