Escaped Pennsylvania killer captured after intense manhunt

By Aditi Sangal, Leinz Vales, Elise Hammond and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 5:37 PM ET, Wed September 13, 2023
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5:03 p.m. ET, September 13, 2023

Cavalcante is now in Pennsylvania state prison, department of corrections says

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Captured escapee Danilo Cavalcante is now in the Pennsylvania state prison — State Correctional Institution Phoenix — where he will serve his mandatory life sentence for first-degree murder, according to the Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections.

SCI Phoenix is a maximum-security prison in Montgomery County and has a capacity for 3,830 inmates, according to the prison’s website.

The department took custody of Cavalcante at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

4:53 p.m. ET, September 13, 2023

Danilo Cavalcante charged with felony escape with bail denied, according to court records

From CNN’s Danny Freeman

Law enforcement officers escort Danilo Cavalcante from a Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Avondale, Pennsylvania, on September 13, 2023.
Law enforcement officers escort Danilo Cavalcante from a Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Avondale, Pennsylvania, on September 13, 2023. Matt Rourke/AP

Danilo Cavalcante has been charged with felony escape and his bail was denied after a court appearance Wednesday, according to court records.

He was arraigned at 10:30 a.m. ET and is expected to be in court again for a preliminary hearing on September 27, records show.

An attorney has not been listed on court documents for Cavalcante and the public defenders' office declined to comment at this time.

4:31 p.m. ET, September 13, 2023

Here's a step-by-step timeline of how Danilo Cavalcante's capture unfolded

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Escaped inmate Danilo Cavalcante is shown after being captured on Wednesday.
Escaped inmate Danilo Cavalcante is shown after being captured on Wednesday. Pennsylvania State Police

Lt. Colonel George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police provided the following timeline on Danilo Cavalcante's capture:

The law enforcement personnel were already in the perimeter established in northern Chester County when the events of the capture started to unfold shortly after midnight.

A burglar alarm: First, there was a burglar alarm within the perimeter. "Our people investigated that — did not find Cavalcante there or anyone else, but it started to bring some of our people into that area. We had been searching an area not far from there already with some tactical teams that night," Bivens said, adding an aircraft overhead was also assisting with the search.

Aircraft picked up a heat signal: The aircraft picked up a heat signal around 1:00 a.m. ET, and personnel began to track that signal.

Weather system brought lightning which forced teams to hold: The aircraft that picked up the heat signal had to depart, and tactical teams secured the area and held it through a storm that rolled in. The team waited until they could bring additional resources in and bring aircraft back overhead "to ensure that we did not have an issue with an escape," Bivens explained.

The search resumed in the morning: "Shortly after 8:00 a.m., tactical teams converged on the area where the heat source was. They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise. Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that had occurred," Bivens said.

Cavalcante tried to escape: "He tried to crawl through thick underbrush taking his rifle with him as he went," Bivens said. One of the officials had a dog, which they released to subdue the inmate, Bivens said.

Cavalcante continued to resist: He "was forcibly taken into custody. No one was injured as a result of that. He did sustain a minor bite wound. We had medical personnel at the scene and they took a look at that," Bivens said.

Cavalcante was taken into custody: "He was transported to our Avondale station for further processing and interview. And he will ultimately be transferred to a state correctional institute where he will be housed and begin to serve his life sentence," Bivens concluded.

4:36 p.m. ET, September 13, 2023

Cavalcante was "defiant" during capture, police say 

From CNN’s Sabrina Shulman 

Lt. Colonel George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police told CNN that escaped inmate Danilo Cavalcante was “defiant and still resisting arrest,” while being captured.

The fugitive was “like somebody who had been out in the woods for an extended period of time,” he said. “And stressed, which is exactly what we were trying to do all along. The whole point was to keep him stressed, keep him moving, and keep him off his game.”

Cavalcante was crawling away before the K9 was able to help subdue him, Bivens detailed.

“When the dog got to him, he then went flat with the dog on him — the dog was able to detain him there,” Bivens told CNN. “The dog is very quick, has the ability to disable someone and take them off guard so that they’re not able to do something, like fire a gun or use a knife or whatever. Or escaping.”

Editor's note: In new court documents today following his arraignment, Pennsylvania authorities updated the spelling of Cavalcante's first name to "Danilo."

11:40 a.m. ET, September 13, 2023

Brandao family was "shrieking with joy" after Cavalcante was captured, district attorney tells CNN

From CNN’s Sabrina Shulman

The family of Deborah Brandao, who was murdered by Pennsylvania inmate Danelo Cavalcante, was “shrieking with joy” after learning he was captured, Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan told CNN.

“They were shrieking with joy and happiness that he’s incarcerated,” Ryan said. “They have lived their own personal nightmare.”

Since Cavalcante’s escape from prison, “they’ve been barricaded inside their homes not feeling safe anywhere,” she said Wednesday.

Ryan said she worked with the Brandao family for two years to prepare them to testify at Cavalcante’s murder trial. “These little kids watched their mother be murdered, then the little girl had to testify during this homicide trial,” she said.

2:04 p.m. ET, September 13, 2023

Law enforcement posed for a photo with the escaped inmate

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia and Eric Levenson

Law enforcement officials posed with the captured inmate for a photo shortly before he was put into a vehicle and transported to police barracks, according to officials on Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials posed with the captured inmate for a photo shortly before he was put into a vehicle and transported to police barracks, according to officials on Wednesday. CBS News Philadelphia

Law enforcement officials posed with the captured inmate Danelo Cavalcante for a photo shortly before he was transported to police barracks, according to officials.

When asked about the photo during a news conference, Lt. Col. George Bivens said he was aware of it, saying “those men and women worked amazingly hard through some very trying circumstances — they’re proud of their work.”

“I’m not bothered at all by the fact that they took a photograph with him in custody. Again, they’re proud of their work. They kept the community safe. I say thanks to them and good job,” he added.

In the photo, Cavalcante was positioned in the front, with an officer holding his arms. One officer holding a 22-caliber rifle went down to one knee and held the weapon up. The K-9 dogs involved in the search stepped toward the front. And other officers in the back spread out to get a clear view. Together, they all looked in one direction – at an officer holding up a phone to take a photo.

In all, about 500 law enforcement officers – including members of the Pennsylvania State Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and US Marshals – participated in the manhunt for Cavalcante.

The inmate was captured Wednesday morning by a tactical team from the State Police and the US Border Patrol. A police dog subdued the fugitive before officers took him and his stolen .22-caliber rifle into custody, Bivens said.

The group photo was one of a number of police photos taken of Cavalcante. Displayed next to Bivens at the news conference was a photo of the fugitive in handcuffs and wearing a Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt.

CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller said he believed a photo of the captured fugitive was important to show the community that the threat of the past two weeks was no more.

“I think it has a legitimate public purpose rather just for their photo collection,” he said.

Charles Ramsey, the former Philadelphia Police Commissioner, expressed his disapproval of the group shot, referring to the image as a “trophy photo.”

“I’m not a fan of that sort of thing. Be professional,” he said. “You got him in custody. Do your job, and the rest of that stuff save for some other place.”

CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI director Andrew McCabe said there was nothing illegal about the photo and praised the officers’ efforts even as he acknowledged some criticism.

“Anything that we do that creates an impression of gratuitousness or kind of self-congratulatory feel, I think doesn’t help the public’s perception of law enforcement,” McCabe said. “I think it’s unfortunate but pretty small compared to the massive accomplishment they achieved.”

10:59 a.m. ET, September 13, 2023

Local residents express relief Pennsylvania escaped inmate Danelo Cavalcante was captured

From CNN's Zenebou Sylla

Local residents expressed relief that escaped inmate Danelo Cavalcante was captured Wednesday morning after a nearly two-week manhunt across Chester County, Pennsylvania.

“It’s definitely relieving,” a local resident named Dariel told CNN affiliate WPVI, who said he rode his bike to the area of capture after seeing it on the news. 

“It’s exciting now that they caught him. It’s good for everyone, especially for the surrounding neighbors. I know being in a development, everyone around me is like sticking together, everyone’s been scared," he said.

Dariel said Cavalcante’s escape was “scary for people” in his area.

“Just feeling that energy going around. It’s definitely – the streets are empty, my neighborhood was empty. It’s definitely been chaotic," he added.

Dariel said he’s looking forward to life getting back to normal. “Especially for the kids too, I know school just started for them, I’m sure they’re excited to get back and all that.”

“This doesn’t happen around here,” a local landscaper named Doug said to reporters near the location where Cavalcante was captured. He said he wasn’t able to work yesterday. “It’s nice to come back out and make a living.”
10:53 a.m. ET, September 13, 2023

Cavalcante expected to be arraigned on felony escape charge, Pennsylvania attorney general says

From CNN’s Danny Freeman

Captured inmate Danelo Cavalcante is expected to be arraigned on a felony escape charge that was filed on August 31, the day he escaped, Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry said in a news release Wednesday.

He will be transported to a state correctional institution “where he will be housed for the foreseeable future,” Henry said in a statement. 

The attorney general’s office will handle the investigation and prosecution of Cavalcante’s escape, according to the statement. He was already convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend in a brutal 2021 stabbing.

“At arraignment, as Mr. Cavalcante has already been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, we will be seeking for Mr. Cavalcante to remain in custody,” the statement reads.

After his arraignment, Cavalcante’s next court date will be a preliminary hearing, according to the attorney general.

10:46 a.m. ET, September 13, 2023

Cavalcante’s sister is in the process of being deported, police say 

From CNN’s Celina Tebor

Danelo Cavalcante’s sister “is in the process of being deported,” Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police said Wednesday.

Bivens confirmed during Wednesday’s news conference that the fugitive’s sister had tried to assist him after his escape.

Earlier, Bivens had confirmed Cavalcante’s sister had been detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He did not detail the reasons why but said authorities “take steps to try and minimize or eliminate” any help the inmate might receive. “And that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Bivens said, “He is absolutely looking for support. He needs that support. He doesn’t have it.”