Escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante has been captured

Prisoner Escape Pennsylvania
Danelo Souza Cavalcante is taken into custody at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks at Avondale Pa., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.
Pennsylvania State Police via AP


An escaped murderer was captured Wednesday after eluding hundreds of searchers for two weeks, bringing relief to anxious residents of southeastern Pennsylvania who endured sleepless nights as he hid in the woods, broke into suburban homes for food, changed his appearance, and fled under gunfire with a rifle pilfered from a garage, authorities said.

State police announced Danelo Souza Cavalcante’s capture on social media on Wednesday, as the search entered its 14th day.

Cavalcante’s condition wasn’t released, but aerial video footage from Fox 29 News showed a handcuffed man in a gravel lot and wearing a grey, long-sleeve shirt with law enforcement officers holding both arms. Later, the man stands at the back of an armored vehicle while an officer cuts the back of the shirt from neck to waist.

Lt. Col. George Bivens, right, speaks during a news conference about the capture of Danelo Souza Cavalcante in Kennett Square, Pa. on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

The end to the search for Cavalcante, 34, unfolded just beyond Philadelphia’s heavily populated suburbs, in an area of woods, rolling farmland and a county park. The search forced schools to close right at the start of the academic year, led to warnings for homeowners to lock their doors, and blocked roads over the busy Labor Day weekend.

Overnight into Wednesday, heavily armed law enforcement officers searched for the fugitive through a night of downpours and thunder.

Cavalcante escaped from the Chester County jail in southeastern Pennsylvania on Aug. 31 by crab-walking up between two walls that were topped with razor wire, then jumping from the roof and dashing away. He had been awaiting transfer to state prison after being sentenced days earlier for fatally stabbing his girlfriend, and is wanted in connection with another killing in Brazil.

PA State Troopers and other law enforcement officers are on the scene in Nantmeal Village as the search for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante moved to northern Chester County Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

Authorities said over the weekend that Cavalcante had slipped out of the initial search area, shaved and changed his clothing, stole a vehicle to travel miles to seek aid from former co-workers in the northern part of the county, and then abandoned the vehicle, at least in part because it was low on fuel.

Authorities have declined to say how they think Cavalcante slipped out of the first search area, and officials have pushed back against questions about whether they blew a chance to catch him.

Then, late Monday, a motorist alerted police to a man matching Cavalcante’s description crouching in the darkness along a line of trees near a road in northern Chester County. Police found footprints and tracked them to the prison shoes identical to those Cavalcante had been wearing. A pair of work boots was reported stolen from a porch nearby.

State police said they believe he was looking for a place to hide when he saw an open garage. There, he stole a .22-caliber rifle and ammunition, and fled when the homeowner who was in the garage drew a pistol and shot at him several times, state police said.

The 2020 Ford Transit van investigators believe fugitive Danelo Calvalcante stole is towed Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, from Nantmeal Village as the search for the escaped convict moved to northern Chester County.Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

“He didn’t, I believe, recognize that the owner was in there. And I think he was probably looking for a place to hide, ran for that garage, saw the firearm, grabbed that, encountered the homeowner and fled with the firearm,” Lt. Col. George Bivens said Tuesday.

That led hundreds of law enforcement personnel to search an area of about 8 to 10 square miles near South Coventry Township, roughly 30 miles northwest (50 kilometers) of Philadelphia.

Cavalcante’s escape was big news in Brazil, where prosecutors in Tocantins state say he is accused of “double qualified homicide” in the 2017 slaying of Válter Júnior Moreira dos Reis in the municipality of Figueiropolis, which authorities say was over a debt the victim owed him in connection with repair of a vehicle.

Law enforcement agents stand by as Danelo Souza Cavalcante sits inside an armored vehicle at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks at Avondale Pa., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.

Pennsylvania authorities even broadcast a recording of Cavalcante’s mother speaking in Portuguese imploring him to surrender peacefully.

Cavalcante received a life sentence in Pennsylvania in August for killing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her children in 2021. Prosecutors say he murdered her to stop her from telling police he was wanted in the Brazil killing. He had been arrested in Virginia after Brandao’s killing, and authorities say they believe he was trying to return to Brazil.

The prison tower guard on duty when Cavalcante escaped was fired. The escape went undetected for more than an hour until guards took a headcount.