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"Element of surprise": Authorities reveal details of escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante’s capture

Escaped convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante was captured and taken back into custody Wednesday morning, ending a two-week manhunt.

Cavalcante had escaped from the exercise yard at Pennsylvania’s Chester County Prison on Aug. 31 by climbing up a wall to a roof area. Surveillance footage showed Cavalcante hoist himself up from the ground and crab-walking upwards until he disappeared from view. For weeks, police pursued Cavalcante until he was finally apprehended in a wooded area in northern Chester Countyon Wednesday.

Law enforcement first came to the area around midnight, when a burglar alarm went off at a residence. Officers investigated but did not find Cavalcante or anyone else present, but it “started to bring some of our people into that area,” Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police said in a news conference Wednesday.

Law enforcement first detected Cavalcante’s heat signal around 1 a.m. using an aircraft, Bivens said. Former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis, a law enforcement expert who was not involved in the search, described the technology used to CBS News as a “fixed-wing craft” from the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The craft used “thermal imaging that’s probably the highest-quality, military-grade,” Davis said, to “get a signal on this guy.”

Lightning storms interrupted the search and forced the aircraft to leave the area, but tactical team members were able to assemble a search perimeter and monitor the area, Bevins said.

Tactical teams converged on the area around 8 a.m., andCavalcante was apprehended inside the perimeter, a law enforcement source told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton.

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

Cavalcante tried to escape the approaching officers by crawling “through thick underbrush,” and had a rifle that he had stolen from a Chester County garage with him, Bivens said.

No shots were fired as he was taken into custody.

Cavalcante was subdued by a Customs and Border Patrol dog, suffering a “minor bite wound.”

He resisted arrest but was “forcibly taken into custody,” Bivens said.

There were no other injuries, Bivens said. Cavalcante was taken to a police station in Avondale, Pennsylvania, for questioning. He will later be moved to a state prison. In August, Cavalcante was sentenced to life in prison without parole for stabbing his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, to death in April 2021.

Davis said that Cavalcante may face further charges related to his escape.

Cavalcante’s escape is under investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

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