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September 14, 2023

Danelo Cavalcante charged for breaking out of Chester County Prison

The convicted murderer, now serving his life sentence at a state correctional facility, told investigators that he intended to steal a car at gunpoint and flee to Canada before police caught him

Investigations Prison Escape
Danelo Cavalcante Mugshot Source/Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Danelo Cavalcante, the convicted murderer who escaped from Chester County Prison prompting a 13-day search, is facing a felony escape charge. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Sept. 27 in Kennett Square.

Danelo Cavalcante was arraigned on felony escape charges just a few hours after the convicted murderer was captured by police Wednesday, ending a 13-day manhunt in Chester County. 

Cavalcante, 34, was taken to a state correctional facility in Montgomery County after being arraigned to continue serving a life sentence for his murder conviction. He has a preliminary hearing about the escape charge on Sept. 29 in Avondale, court documents show.

In Pennsylvania, when state prisoners have to appear in court — whether it's for hearings about appeals or charges in other cases — it is typical for them to return to the county where those charges originated. The prisoners generally are held in the county prison. 

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, which is handling the investigation and prosecution into Cavalcante's escape, said the plans for Cavalcante's preliminary hearing have not been finalized. He potentially could return to Chester County Prison, the same facility from which he escaped on Aug. 31.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Christopher Phillips is listed as the active attorney on the case, replacing the Chester County District Attorney's Office, according to a court docket. This is because the D.A.'s Office referred the escape charge to the Attorney General's Office, a spokesperson said. 

Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan, who signed Cavalcante's charging document, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ryan indicated during a news conference Wednesday that her office may bring charges for other criminal acts allegedly committed by Cavalcante during his escape, but none have been filed.

During an interview with investigators, Cavalcante said he intended to steal a car at gunpoint and flee north to Canada, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Clark told ABC News. He also allegedly told authorities they were, at times, just 5 or 6 feet away from him. 

The convicted murderer told investigators that he was able to survive while on the run by eating stolen watermelon. He shaved by using a razor he found in a backpack, 6ABC reported. 

Cavalcante, whose first name has been updated to "Danilo" in court documents, was captured by Pennsylvania State Police shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday in South Coventry Township. A burglar alarm prompted police to deploy thermal imaging technology near Prizer Road and Route 100. They spotted Cavalcante hiding in a wood pile. 

As police closed in on him, Cavalcante briefly attempted to elude capture by crawling into nearby thick underbrush, but he was stopped by officers and a K9 unit, named Yoda, who bit him during the capture. He was taken to state police barracks in Avondale for questioning and reprocessing before being transported to a maximum security prison. 

Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens, who led the search, praised state troopers and other law enforcement officers involved in capturing Cavalcante, and he deflected when asked about the prisoner's proficiency at avoiding being caught for nearly two weeks. "I don't know that he was particularly skilled," Bivens said. "He was desperate." 

Cavalcante was sentenced to life in prison last month for killing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, at her Schuylkill Township home in 2021. She was stabbed to death in front of her children. During the trial, Ryan said Cavalcante killed Brandao because she had threatened to go to police with information about a homicide he committed in Brazil nearly six years ago. 

Brazilian law enforcement say Cavalcante shot and killed a man in November 2017 after a dispute about a debt related to the repair of a vehicle, and there has been a warrant for his arrest since June 2018. After the shooting, he hid in the terrain of rural, northern Brazil before fleeing that country using a false identity

An 18-year veteran of Chester County Prison, who was on duty when Cavalcante escaped, was fired last week. In response to Cavalcante's escape, Chester County Commissioners said changes will be made to bolster the prison's security. They include changes to the exercise yards and procedural changes for security measures and communication to residents living close to the prison.