Pennsylvania fugitive captured, ending two-week manhunt

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) -A convicted murderer who escaped from a Pennsylvania jail was captured on Wednesday with the help of a heat-sensing aircraft and a police dog, ending an intense, two-week manhunt that unnerved residents in the Philadelphia suburbs, authorities said.

Tactical teams surrounded the fugitive, Danelo Cavalcante, about 8 a.m. in a rural area about 30 miles (50 km) west of Philadelphia. As he tried to crawl away, a police dog named Yoda subdued him and he was forcibly taken into custody, Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens said.

Cavalcante was armed with a rifle he had stolen from a garage. Bivens said no shots were fired during the fugitive’s capture.

Cavalcante broke out of the Chester County Prison two weeks ago by climbing between two walls that formed a narrow corridor in the jail house yard and scrambling onto the roof, according to police.

“It’s never easy to find someone who doesn’t want to be found in a large area,” Bivens said in response to a question about the extended manhunt during a Wednesday news briefing.

Cavalcante survived on watermelon that he found on a farm and drank water from streams, Robert Clark, a supervisor with the U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force, told CNN, relaying information his officers learned while questioning Cavalcante after his capture.

“He was hiding his fecal matter under leaves and foliage so that law enforcement could not track him – he was a desperate man,” Clark said.

Cavalcante’s “end game was to carjack somebody and head north up to Canada, and he intended to do that in the next 24 hours,” Clark added.

Cavalcante escaped on Aug. 31 while waiting to be transferred from the county lock-up to a state correctional institution to begin serving a life sentence for killing a former girlfriend.

His capture began shortly after midnight on Wednesday when police responded to an alarm at a nearby home. About an hour later, a Drug Enforcement Administration aircraft picked up a heat signal, and tactical units converged.

After he was captured, about two dozen police officers in tactical gear posed for a group photo with Cavalcante standing in front with his arms pinned behind his back.

When asked about the photograph, Bivens said he was not bothered by it. “We are proud of their work.”

Cavalcante’s escape unsettled many in the region. School districts canceled classes for a day after Cavalcante was seen on security-camera video walking on a trail. Police expanded their search and urged residents to keep their doors locked, but he was able to slip away.

More than a week after his escape, he stole a van and drove about 25 miles (40 km) before abandoning the vehicle. By that time, he had shaved his beard using a razor that he found in a backpack he had stolen from a home.

During his flight, Cavalcante tried to contact several people for their assistance, including his sister, but she did not help him, police said. She was later taken into custody on an immigration violation.

A jury found Cavalcante guilty of first-degree murder in the April 2021 stabbing death of his former girlfriend at her home in Schuylkill Township in front of her young children. After the murder, he fled but was arrested in Virginia.

Cavalcante, a Brazilian national, is also a suspect in a 2017 murder in Brazil, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

(Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado; Editing by Mark Porter)