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Prison escapee Danelo Cavalcante captured after 2-week manhunt, Pennsylvania police say

The two-week search for a convicted murderer whoescaped from a Pennsylvania prisonended Wednesday after Danelo Cavalcante was captured, officials said. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police confirmed at a news conference that Cavalcante was apprehended just after 8 a.m., by members of a tactical team leading the manhunt. No shots were fired.

Cavalcante was arrested in a wooded area inside the perimeter set up by law enforcement, a law enforcement source told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton early Wednesday, noting that he was arrested without incident.

Images from CBS Philadelphia’s chopper showed a crew of officers in camouflage escorting Cavalcante. The escaped prisoner appeared to be wearing a Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt in the footage. It was taken after tactical teams converged on an area near their search perimeter in northern West Chester County, where an aircraft had picked up a heat signal overnight, Bivens said.

A “burglar alarm” sounded around midnight at a residence within the perimeter, according to police. Officers did not find Cavalcante, or anyone else, at the residence when they investigated the alarm, but the heat signal eventually leading to his capture was detected in that area after 1 a.m. At that point, the aircraft began to track it. However, lightning storms moving through the region prevented the craft from continuing its flight and tactical team members instead formed a new perimeter around the spot where the heat signal had shown up. The manhunt resumed Wednesday morning.

“They were able to move in very quietly they had the element of surprise,” Bivens said.

Cavalcante tried to escape by crawling “through thick underbrush,” Bivens continued, “taking his rifle with him when he went.” He said Cavalcante was subdued by a police dog and “forcibly taken into custody” after resisting officers as they attempted to arrest him. Cavalcante sustained “a minor bite wound,” according to Bivens, but there were no other injuries. The escapee was transported to a police station in Avondale for questioning, and will ultimately be moved to a state prison.

“It is a true pleasure to stand here this morning and talk to you all about bringing this manhunt to successful conclusion, and without getting anyone else hurt, most importantly,” Bivens said Wednesday. Shapiro also addressed community members at the morning news conference, recognizing that “this has been a concerning and trying time for each and every one of you in the region.”

“We obviously became deeply concerned after the suspect was able to steal a weapon,” the governor said. “He was apprehended this morning with no shots fired.”

Authorities said Tuesday Cavalcante stole a riflefrom a Chester County garage and evaded shots fired by the homeowner as he fled the scene. Cavalcante, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2021, escaped from Chester County Prison in West Chester at around 8:45 a.m. on Aug. 31.

Chester County Prison’s acting warden Howard Holland said thatCavalcanteescaped from the exercise yard by climbing up a wall to the roof area, which is the same escape route that another inmate, Igor Bolte, used in May.Surveillance footage from the prison grounds, which authorities released about a week into their search, showed Cavalcante hoisting himself up from the ground by balancing between a fence and a brick wall, and using a crab-walk to climb upward until he disappeared from the camera’s view. His escape is under investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

“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,” said Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

A 34-year-old Brazilian national, Cavalcante was convicted last month of first-degree murder and sentenced to serve life in prison without parole for killing his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in April 2021. He allegedly stabbed her to death, and the woman’s young children witnessed the crime, CBS Philadelphia reported at the time, citing police. Cavalcante is also wanted in connection with a homicide in Brazil, according to the U.S. Marshal Service, and he was repeatedly described as “extremely dangerous” by law enforcement throughout the manhunt involving hundreds of local, state and federal officers.

Cavalcante was seen multiple times in and around Chester County during the extended police search that led to school closures in the area and a temporary order to shelter in place. Initially, law enforcement focused the manhunt in the area surrounding Longwood Gardens, which is densely wooded and situated on top of a network of underground tunnels.

Search efforts escalated considerably this week. On Monday night, a man believed to be Cavalcante was spotted by a driver along the side of a road near Route 100, but had already vanished when the driver returned to check the roadside before they reported the sighting. Mud prints matching the soles of Cavalcante’s prison shoes were located and tracked to the shoes themselves, which Cavalcante had discarded. Around the same time, a resident in the area reported that a pair of work boots had been stolen from the porch outside their home.

Later the same night, a Chester County homeowner on Coventryville Road reported that a man had entered his garage and stolen a .22 caliber rifle that was leaning against one of the walls. The homeowner drew a pistol and shot at the man, believed to be Cavalcante, as he fled the property with the gun. When law enforcement responded to the scene, they found a green sweatshirt and a white t-shirt in the driveway.

They believed both clothing items belonged to Cavalcante, since he had been seen wearing a green hooded sweatshirt in doorbell surveillance footage over the weekend. That video came from a Ring camera at the home of one of Cavalcante’s former work associates, who he attempted to contact Saturday night after leaving Longwood Gardens in a stolen van, authorities said. Images from the surveillance tape were widely circulated.

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