By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) -A convicted murderer who escaped from a Pennsylvania jail was captured on Wednesday with the help of a heat-sensing aircraft and a police dog, ending an intense, two-week manhunt that unnerved residents in the Philadelphia suburbs, authorities said.
Tactical teams surrounded the fugitive, Danelo Cavalcante, at around 8 a.m. in a rural area about 30 miles (50 km) west of Philadelphia. As he tried to crawl away, a police dog subdued him and he was forcibly taken into custody, Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens said.
Cavalcante, who was armed with a rifle that he had stolen from a garage, was taken into custody without further incident. Bivens said he did not have the opportunity to use the firearm.
Cavalcante broke out of the Chester County Prison two weeks earlier by climbing between two walls that formed a narrow corridor in the jail house yard and scrambling onto the roof, according to police.
“It’s never easy to find someone who doesn’t want to be found in a large area,” Bivens said in response to a question about the extended manhunt during a Wednesday news briefing.
Cavalcante escaped on Aug. 31 while waiting to be transferred from the county lock-up to a state correctional institution to begin serving a life sentence handed down after his conviction for the brutal killing of a former girlfriend.
His capture began shortly after midnight on Wednesday when police responded to an alarm that went off at a nearby home. About an hour later, a Drug Enforcement Administration aircraft flying overhead picked up a heat signal, and tactical units converged at that point.
After he was captured, about two dozen police officers in tactical gear posed for a group photo with Cavalcante standing in front with his arms pinned behind his back.
When asked about the photograph, Bivens said he was not bothered by it. “We are proud of their work.”
Cavalcante’s escape unsettled many in the region. School districts canceled classes for a day after Cavalcante was seen on security-camera video walking on a trail. Police expanded their search and urged residents to keep their doors locked, but he was able to slip through an initial perimeter.
More than a week after his escape, he stole a van and drove about 25 miles (40 km) before abandoning the vehicle. By that time, he had shaved off his beard.
During his flight, Cavalcante tried to contact several people for their assistance, including his sister, but she did not help him, police said. She was later taken into custody for an immigration violation.
A jury found Cavalcante guilty of first-degree murder in the April 2021 stabbing death of his former girlfriend at her home in Schuylkill Township in front of her young children. After the murder, he fled the scene, according to authorities. Hours later, police arrested him in Virginia.
Cavalcante, a Brazilian national, is also a suspect in a 2017 murder in Brazil, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
(Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Mark Porter)