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Timeline: How murderer Danelo Cavalcante has escaped prison and police

Hundreds of officers are continuing to search for escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante, a convicted murderer described as being "extremely dangerous."
Timeline: How murderer Danelo Cavalcante has escaped prison and police
Posted at 2:17 PM, Sep 12, 2023

The manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante continued Tuesday almost two weeks after the convicted murderer escaped from a Pennsylvania prison.

In that time, the "extremely dangerous" 34-year-old has been able to elude hundreds of officers and multiple pursuance strategies, though police remain confident they're on his tail.

As those search efforts continue, here's what we know so far about Cavalcante's escape and his elusion tactics since.

Aug. 16: Cavalcante is convicted of murder

Cavalcante was convicted in mid-August for fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, 38 times in front of her two young kids in 2021. He was sentenced to life without parole for the murder on Aug. 22.

Prosecutors said he killed Brandao to stop her from telling police about his connection to a 2017 murder in his native Brazil, for which he was also wanted by authorities.

Aug. 31: Cavalcante escapes prison

Cavalcante began his life sentence in Pennsylvania's Chester County Prison before being transferred to a state correctional institution in four weeks.

Though this information wasn't initially revealed, police later shared footage and explained how he escaped.

His prisoner block was in the prison's outdoor exercise area at around 9 a.m. on Aug. 31, and while no one was looking, including a guard in a tower, the inmate walked into an area where there were two walls. He backed against one, then put a leg up against it. Using his arms on the opposite wall, he kicked up his other leg, using all four limbs to "crab walk" up the walls.

He then pushed through razor wire — installed after another inmate escaped in a similar way, though he was caught shortly after — ran across a roof and scaled a fence lined with razor wire.

Nearly an hour later, authorities said Cavalcante was seen walking on a road near the prison.

Sept. 1 - 5: Cavalcante spotted multiple times amid search

The search for Cavalcante started hitting harder Labor Day weekend, with hundreds of law enforcement agents — including U.S. Marshals — searching by Sept. 1. 

Authorities used dogs, drones and helicopters to search all sorts of terrain, especially areas with routes out of town, the county's district attorney said.

Though officials initially believed people were helping him evade police, they retracted that and said they assumed he was alone and possibly fleeing south.

Chester County residents were asked to check any surveillance video to help authorities, and on Sept. 2, one resident did catch him on camera, about a mile-and-a-half from the prison in Pocopson Township. This residential neighborhood is where police initially set up a perimeter, as he'd be sighted multiple times there through the weekend.

One resident said they saw Cavalcante in a creek bed behind their home in Pennsbury Township, an area a couple miles away from botanical park Longwood Gardens. 

Longwood Gardens is heavily wooded, and it's where a trail camera caught him late Sept. 4. He walked through the same area multiple times that night, once walking north then again walking south, police said.

When authorities saw the camera footage the next morning, they expanded their search south of the original zone. They started broadcasting a message from his mother in Portuguese across the area as she asked her son to "surrender peacefully."

Two Philadelphia-area school districts canceled classes amid the search.

Sept. 6 - 8: Police release security footage and discuss escape

SEE MORE: Pennsylvania escaped murderer continues to elude authorities

At a news conference on Sept. 6, police released the footage that showed how he escaped.

Chester County Prison acting warden Howard Holland said the razor wire covering his exit was deemed insufficient, and the prison staff was working on ways to prevent someone from escaping from the area a third time, including increased staff and better security measures.

Holland said the guard who was in the observation tower had been put on administrative leave, and days later, a Chester County spokesperson confirmed the guard had been fired. The 18-year veteran of the job had a cell phone in the tower, which violates jail policy, the spokesperson said.

As many as 400 personnel had joined the search at this point, and Longwood Gardens was closed indefinitely, as more reports of Cavalcante on the property came out.

Sept. 9 - 10: Cavalcante changes his look and steals a car

By Sept. 9, authorities said Cavalcante had been spotted almost a dozen times, including several in the Longwood Gardens search area.

But at a press conference the next day, officials announced the escaped convict had slipped out of the perimeter, changed his look and stole an unlocked van with its keys inside less than a mile from the search area's northern perimeter.

The Saturday theft wasn't noticed for hours, allowing him to travel more than 20 miles northeast to East Pikeland Township, authorities said. There, he was captured on his former co-worker's doorbell camera just before 10 p.m.  with a newly shaven face, in a green sweatshirt and wearing a baseball cap. The homeowner, who was at dinner at the time, called police after seeing the footage upon returning home.

But after the homeowner didn't answer, police said Cavalcante went to a nearby Phoenixville home of another former co-worker, who also wasn't home.

Police found the van the morning of Sept. 10, presumably ditched due to running low on gas. This finding meant police no longer had a "defined search area" after shifting west.

SEE MORE: Escaped Pennsylvania killer spotted on the run with altered appearance

Sept. 11 - now: Cavalcante is believed to be armed as the search continues

On Monday, police said there were concerns Cavalcante had already stolen or will steal another vehicle, but said they remained confident the weekend happenings were "a minor setback."

But later that evening, Cavalcante broke into a home and stole something else: A rifle.

Lt. Col. George Bivens shared news that the escapee was now considered "armed and dangerous" early Tuesday, saying they shifted their search and a "strong" perimeter of 8 to 10 square miles near South Coventry Township.

A $25,000 reward is now being offered for information leading to his capture, and authorities warn anyone who is helping Cavalcante will be prosecuted.

His sister, who was reportedly in the U.S. illegally, now faces deportation after refusing to cooperate with investigators. 

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