Captured Pennsylvania fugitive tells officials he planned to head to Canada or Puerto Rico

Sep 14, 2023, 10:21 AM | Updated: Sep 15, 2023, 2:34 pm

Law enforcement officers escort Danelo Cavalcante from a Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Avon...

Law enforcement officers escort Danelo Cavalcante from a Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Avondale Pa., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. Cavalcante was captured Wednesday after eluding hundreds of searchers for two weeks. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

They caught him just in time.

After eluding a police dragnet in southeastern Pennsylvania for two weeks, escaped murderer Danilo Cavalcante could sense authorities were closing in. He knew he had to make a break for it or face capture. So he formulated a plan: The 34-year-old fugitive would carjack someone within 24 hours and try to flee to Canada or Puerto Rico.

But there would be no car, no ride to the border, no way out.

Cavalcante — dirty and wet and hiding in thick underbrush — was captured by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection tactical team Wednesday morning. The team’s search dog, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois named Yoda, bit him on the scalp and then latched onto his leg as Cavalcante, still armed with a rifle he’d stolen a few days earlier, made one last futile effort to crawl away.

Hours later, inside a Pennsylvania State Police barracks, the Brazilian national, speaking in Portuguese through an interpreter, revealed to investigators his plan to forcibly take a car.

“He said the law enforcement presence in this perimeter was becoming too intense, and that he felt that he needed to get out of the area,” Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Clark, recounting Cavalcante’s interview, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Cavalcante provided other details about his life on the run since his brazen escape from the Chester County jail on Aug. 31, in which he crab-walked his 5-foot, 120-pound (152-centimeter, 54-kilogram) frame up two opposing prison walls topped with razor wire, then jumped from the roof.

He said he didn’t eat for the first three days after busting out, surviving on creek water and then, finally, stealing watermelon from a farm and cracking it open with his head.

“I don’t know that he was particularly skilled. He was desperate,” state police Lt. Col. George Bivens, the leader and public face of the intensive search, said at a news conference Wednesday. “You have an individual whose choice is go back to prison and spend the rest of your life in a place you don’t want to be, or continue to try and evade capture. He chose to evade capture.”

Using the difficult terrain to his advantage, Cavalcante stayed put for days at a time and only moved at night, hiding in foliage so thick that search teams came within a few yards of him on three separate occasions. He said he covered his feces with leaves in an effort to hide his tracks from the hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement agents who were out looking for him.

The sprawling search area consisted of miles of dense woods, residential neighborhoods and even Longwood Gardens, one of the nation’s top botanical gardens, where a surveillance camera captured him walking through the area with a duffel bag, backpack and hooded sweatshirt.

As the days wore on — and police dogs, armored carriers, horses and helicopters became a familiar presence — residents grew increasingly uneasy.

“Many neighbors had a police officer on their deck with a machine gun while they slept,” resident Jennie Brown, said over Labor Day weekend. “I’ve never felt more scared and more safe at the same time. It’s a really strange feeling.”

Cavalcante, meanwhile, seemed to have serendipity on his side.

He swiped a backpack that happened to have a razor in it, which he promptly used to shave off his beard in order to change his appearance. He pilfered a pair of boots to replace his worn-out prison shoes. He slipped out of an initial police perimeter and stole a dairy delivery van that had been left unlocked with the keys inside, ditching it miles away when he ran out of fuel.

At one point, Cavalcante told investigators, he heard a message broadcast from a police chopper in Portuguese, urging him to surrender.

He thought about it. He didn’t want to be caught, but he also didn’t want to die, Clark said.

“He said, ‘I knew that I had to pay for what I had done. However, I wasn’t willing to pay with my life,’” Clark said.

Late Monday, Cavalcante stole a .22-caliber rifle and ammunition from an open garage and fled when the homeowner, who was in the garage, drew a pistol and shot at him several times.

The homeowner missed, but Cavalcante’s luck would run out soon enough.

Around 1 a.m. Wednesday, a Drug Enforcement Administration plane equipped with thermal imaging picked up the heat signature of a figure on the move. The figure didn’t resemble a deer, a fox or some other animal. It looked like a person.

It looked like Cavalcante.

Stormy weather then moved in and grounded the plane, but tactical teams formed a tight perimeter to hem him in. The weather cleared hours later, and the officers advanced on him. He had no idea they were there until it was too late.

Cavalcante, who was sentenced to life in prison last month for killing his ex-girlfriend, and who is wanted for a 2017 killing in Brazil, was taken to a state prison in the Philadelphia suburbs after speaking with investigators from the U.S. Marshals Service and detectives with Pennsylvania State Police and Chester County.

“There are highs and lows in an investigation like this,” State Police Commissioner Col. Christopher Paris said on NBC’s “Today” show Thursday. “The resolve was constantly there … And we knew that he was desperate. We knew that he was where we were looking.”


Associated Press reporter Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia contributed to this story.


This story was first published on Sept. 14, 2023. It was updated on Sept. 15, 2023, to correct that The Associated Press, quoting officials, misspelled the fugitive’s first name. He is Danilo Cavalcante, not Danelo Cavalcante.

United States News

Associated Press

Kentucky AG announces latest round of funding to groups battling the state’s drug abuse problem

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A state commission has awarded nearly $14 million in the latest round of funding to groups serving “in the trenches” to combat Kentucky’s drug abuse problem, Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Monday. A few dozen groups will receive portions of the $13.9 million, which stems from a massive settlement with opioid […]

16 minutes ago

Associated Press

Remains of Ohio WWII seaman killed during Pearl Harbor attack identified; will be buried in November

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense department authorities say the remains of an Ohio sailor killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, have been identified. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Monday that Navy Seaman 2nd Class Stanley C. Galaszewski, 29, of Steubenville, Ohio, was one of 104 crewmen on the battleship USS California killed during […]

1 hour ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at New York Supreme Court, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023...

Associated Press

Here’s where all the cases against Trump stand as he campaigns for a return to the White House

Former President Donald Trump was in court on Monday for the start of his civil fraud trial in New York, a case in which he and his company are accused of deceiving banks, insurers and others by misstating his wealth for years in financial statements. The judge overseeing the case, Arthur Engoron, resolved the lawsuit’s […]

1 hour ago


KTAR Video

Video: U.S. government avoids shutdown, but drama continues among Republican members of Congress

The threat of a federal government shutdown was avoided late Saturday, hours before a midnight deadline, but one Republican Arizona congressman calls out his own party, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy. KTAR News host Mike Broomhead explains. Video: Felisa Cárdenas/KTAR News

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Cigna is paying over $172 million to settle claims over Medicare Advantage reimbursement

Health insurance provider The Cigna Group will pay more than $172 million over claims it gave the federal government inaccurate Medicare Advantage diagnoses codes in order to inflate reimbursement. The case centered around allegations that Cigna violated the False Claims Act by submitting and not withdrawing “inaccurate and untruthful” codes, according to the U.S. Department […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Man nears settlement with bars he says overserved a driver accused of killing his new bride

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (AP) — Two bars accused of overserving a woman who authorities say drunkenly hit a golf cart carrying a newlywed couple away from their reception, killing the bride, have reached a tentative settlement with the groom, who was seriously injured. The Drop In Bar & Deli and The Crab Shack have agreed […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.



When most diets fail, re:vitalize makes a difference that shows

Staying healthy and losing weight are things many people in Arizona are conscious of, especially during the summer.


Mayo Clinic

Game on! Expert sports physicals focused on you

With tryouts quickly approaching, now is the time for parents to schedule physicals for their student-athlete. The Arizona Interscholastic Association requires that all student-athletes must have a physical exam completed before participating in team practices or competition.

Captured Pennsylvania fugitive tells officials he planned to head to Canada or Puerto Rico