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October 17, 2023

Chester County Prison officials knew Danelo Cavalcante was an escape risk, emails show

A correctional officer warned of the convicted killer's plans weeks before he led authorities on a lengthy manhunt

Investigations Prison Escape

Chester County Prison officials were made aware that convicted killer Danelo Cavalcante was plotting an escape in the weeks before he broke out. Above, Cavalcante is shown making his escape on Aug. 31.

To some officials at Chester County Prison, the daring escape of Danelo Cavalcante in August may not have been as big of a shock as it was to the public. According to newly-revealed internal documents, some prison staffers suspected the convicted killer was planning an escape weeks before he pulled it off.

Several hours after Cavalcante's escape, Chester County Prison Sgt. Jerry Beavers reportedly sent an email to another correctional officer noting that concerns had been raised about Cavalcante's escape risk in July, according to emails obtained by 6ABC through Pennsylvania's right-to-know law. 

In an Aug. 31 email sent to Capt. Harry Griswold, Beavers said another correctional officer had noted in July that Cavalcante was "planning an escape." Griswold then forwarded that message to acting prison warden Howard Holland. 

Knowledge of Cavalcante's escape risk goes back to 2021 when he was apprehended in Virginia following the murder of his ex-girlfriend, a Chester County spokesperson told 6ABC. During Cavalcante's trial, "unsubstantiated information from an unknown source was received reinforcing Cavalcante's status as an escape risk," the spokesperson said.

Cavalcante broke out of Chester County Prison on Aug. 31 when he "crab-walked" up a wall in an outdoor prison yard and escaped through razor wire on the roof. He had been left unsupervised by correctional officers in the yard at the time of his escape. 

After an intensive, two-week manhunt, Calvacante was captured and taken back into custody on Sept. 13. 

A prison guard who was on was on duty during Cavalcante's escape was fired shortly after the incident. Chester County officials said changes will be made to bolster the prison's security, including added personnel and security cameras, changes to the exercise yards and better communication with nearby residents.

Several weeks before he escaped, Cavalcante was sentenced to life in prison for stabbing to death his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her children at her Schuylkill Township home in 2021. During his trial, Chester County District Attorney Deb 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.

Cavalcante is expected to appear in court next month to face additional charges for escaping from the prison.