Danelo Cavalcante, the Brazilian murderer who broke out of a Pennsylvania prison on Aug. 31 and spent nearly two weeks on the run, was captured in a dramatic early-morning operation, Pennsylvania police said Wednesday.
The fugitive was captured after a “series of events started to unfold” within a perimeter law enforcement had set up in Chester County, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens told reporters.
After a burglar alarm at a residence brought a swarm of police to the area, Cavalcante was nowhere to be found–but an aerial search “picked up a heat signal” that authorities were able to track, Bivens said.
Tactical teams converged on the area at around 1 a.m. local time and then made their move. “Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded” at first but as soon as he did, he tried to escape again by crawling through thick underbrush with a rifle—until a police dog was released to “subdue” him, Bivens said.
In a mugshot released Wednesday afternoon, Cavalcante was clean shaven—a change in look from when he broke out of jail—with scrapes on his forehead. Moments after his capture, photos from the scene showed Cavalcante’s face was significantly bloodied.
“He continued to resist but was forcibly taken into custody,” Bivens said, adding that Cavalcante “did sustain a minor bite wound.”
Sources cited by FOX 29 on Wednesday said he was found in a shed at a John Deere dealership in Pottstown, wielding the same rifle he’d stolen from a homeowner days earlier.
Cavalcante had, until Wednesday morning, eluded capture again and again, hiding out in the woods, pillaging area homes for food, altering his appearance and at one point getting shot at by the homeowner as he stole a rifle from a garage.
Frightened residents were finally able to breathe a sigh of relief as police released a reverse 911 call to residents, declaring: “The search for Danelo Cavalcante is over. The subject is now in custody.”
“The capture of Cavalcante ends the nightmare of the past two weeks,” the Chester County Commissioners said in a statement reacting to his capture.
Just a day earlier, authorities had moved their manhunt to South Coventry Township in Chester County and announced Cavalcante, who police had already described as “extremely dangerous” and “desperate,” was now armed.
Convicted of stabbing his ex-girlfriend Deborah Brandao to death in 2021 to allegedly stop her from alerting authorities that he was a fugitive in his home country for a different murder, Cavalcante made his brazen escape while awaiting transfer to a different prison to begin serving his life sentence for that slaying. After crab-walking up between two walls, he climbed over razor wire on the top and jumped down from the roof before running away, authorities said. Prison officials had just added the razor wire following a similar escape by another inmate in May, and said after Cavalcante’s getaway that they would consider additional measures.
“His arrest is a huge relief. We were staying away from the news to try to stay calm, have some peace, because we have been distressed and getting sick. My mother had gotten sick. We were afraid that he would retaliate against my family. We were afraid because you guys [the media] know what he’s capable of,” Deborah’s sister Silvia Brandao told GloboNews.
Cavalcante had been spotted multiple times as police chased him throughout Chester County, panicking residents and shutting down schools in some areas as he managed to elude capture again and again.
“If I’m nervous, can you imagine the ex-girlfriend’s sister who’s taking care of the two kids? They are super scared. My cousin has kids in school in Phoenixville. They are scared, too,” Franco Rosa, Cavalcante’s former roommate, told FOX 29 earlier this week.
On the eve of his capture, Cavalcante’s mother, Iracema, was quoted telling The New York Times her son would be better off dead than in a maximum-security prison.
Defending him in the murder of his ex-girlfriend, she said he “had no other choice” and went on to say: “Today, I see my son as dead. In a strange place, trampled, everyone lying about him, saying he’s something that he’s not.”