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Pennsylvania manhunt: Police finally capture Danelo Cavalcante 2 weeks after prison escape

Authorities said he was subdued by a police dog before officers took him into custody.

Escaped fugitive Danelo Cavalcante was apprehended in southeastern Pennsylvania after a nearly two-week manhunt, police announced Wednesday.

"I'm pleased to be able to report that thanks to the extraordinary work of law enforcement officials from here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, our local leaders here in Chester County and from our federal partners, shortly after 8 a.m., our suspect was captured,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said during a morning press conference, adding that he was relieved there were "no injuries to law enforcement or to the public. We obviously became deeply concerned after the suspect was able to steal a weapon. He was apprehended this morning with no shots fired.”

Danelo Cavalcante is taken into custody at state police barracks in Avondale, Pa.
Danelo Cavalcante is taken into custody at state police barracks in Avondale, Pa., on Wednesday. (Pennsylvania State Police via AP)

Cavalcante had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison last month. He escaped before he could be transferred to a state facility.

The hundreds of law enforcement personnel searching for him had faced criticism for the long search, which resulted in school and road closures and warnings to residents about securing their homes and vehicles.

Pennsylvania state and local authorities hold a news briefing to announce the capture of fugitive Danelo Cavalcante.
Pennsylvania state and local authorities hold a news briefing to announce the capture of Cavalcante. (Reuters)

Residents received a reverse 911 alert Wednesday morning letting them know the ordeal had ended. It read, “This is a message from Pennsylvania State Police. The search for Danelo Cavalcante is over. The subject is now in custody.”

Read more on Yahoo News: Danelo Cavalcante's manhunt echoes the 19 days Norman Johnston spent on the lam in 1999, via Delaware News Journal

The capture

Law enforcement officers enter the woods in the search for the escaped convict on Tuesday.
Law enforcement officers enter the woods in the search for the escaped convict on Tuesday. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said Cavalcante, 34, was located after a burglar alarm at a residence went off shortly after midnight and an aircraft using night vision technology picked up a heat signal nearby. Bad weather grounded the craft, but a tactical team moved into the general area over the course of the night. When the aircraft returned in the early morning, law enforcement was able to zero in on the thermal image.

While Cavalcante was crawling through underbrush, a police dog was released that eventually subdued him. Police said the fugitive, who was wearing a Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt, sustained a minor bite wound and was taken into custody. He will ultimately be transported to a state prison to serve his life sentence.

“Today is a great day,” Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan said. “Our nightmare is finally over, and the good guys won.”

Read more on Yahoo News: The daughter of the woman killed by Pennsylvania prison escapee Danelo Cavalcante told police he said he was going ‘to do something bad’ to their lives, via CNN

The manhunt

Law enforcement officers stand guard on Tuesday.
Law enforcement officers stand guard on Tuesday. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Over two weeks, law enforcement officials said they had employed tactical teams, aircraft, tracking dogs and officers on horseback in the search for the 5-foot, 120-pound Cavalcante. The agencies involved include the Pennsylvania State Police, FBI, ATF and U.S. Marshals Service. Authorities had cited the densely wooded area, an underground tunnel system and large drainage ditches as reasons for the difficulty of the search and raised the reward for a tip leading to his capture to $25,000.

Over the weekend, police say, Cavalcante stole a delivery van from Baily’s Dairy and drove it 20 miles to East Pikeland Township, escaping from the initial 8-square-mile search area. He went to the home of a former co-worker in an attempt to meet with him, but the man was out for dinner and contacted authorities after reviewing the footage from his Ring doorbell camera. Police found the abandoned vehicle in a field behind a barn, saying they believed it was abandoned due to low fuel.

On Monday evening, Cavalcante broke into the garage of a Chester County resident and stole a .22 rifle. The homeowner fired at the fugitive with a pistol, but police said there was no evidence he had been struck. Cavalcante had altered his appearance over the course of the manhunt, shaving and changing clothes. He had shed a green hoodie and white T-shirt near the home where the rifle was stolen on Monday evening.

Read more on Yahoo News: Danelo Cavalcante news timeline: Everything that happened from prisoner's escape to capture, via USA Today

The escape

The escape of inmate Danelo Cavalcante from Chester County Prison, as shown in a screenshot.
Cavalcante's escape from Chester County Prison, as shown in a screenshot. (Chester County district attorney via Facebook/Reuters)

Cavalcante was sentenced in August to life in prison without parole for the 2021 stabbing of his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandão, in front of her two children. He is also wanted in his home country of Brazil for a 2017 killing tied to a car repair debt.

On Aug. 31, Cavalcante crab-walked between two walls to escape Chester County Prison before he was set to be transferred to a state facility. Security footage of his escape shows him going from the recreation yard, up the walls, over the razor wire, across a roof and down to the ground, yet his absence was not detected for more than an hour following a head count. The corrections officer on duty at the guard tower during the escape, an 18-year veteran, was found to have had his personal cellphone on him at the time of the escape, in violation of prison policy, and was fired.

It was the second time this year that an inmate escaped from Chester County Prison using the same route. In May, authorities say, 30-year-old Igor Bolte made it across the roof and cleared the prison, only to be captured minutes later a half mile away from the facility. Razor wire was installed following Bolte’s brief time as a fugitive but did not stop Cavalcante’s escape, which follows a string of Keystone State jailbreaks this year.

Thumbnail credit: Pennsylvania State Police, Chester County Prison via AP