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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Pennsylvania fugitive captured after two weeks on the run

A photo of Danelo Cavalcante in police custody is displayed at a news conference in kennett Square, Pa., following his arrest on Wednesday morning, Sept. 13, 2023. Cavalcante, 34, a convicted murderer, escaped from a Pennsylvania jail and eluded hundreds of law enforcement officers for almost two weeks in quiet, wooded communities outside Philadelphia.

By Elise Young and Campbell Robertson

A “heat signal” detected by a federal law enforcement aircraft early Wednesday morning led to the capture of the convicted murderer whose escape from a Pennsylvania jail two weeks ago stoked fear across a broad swath of Philadelphia’s western suburbs.

Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police said the fugitive, Danelo Cavalcante, 34, was arrested around 8 a.m. in a wooded area about 15 miles north of Chester County Prison, where he had clambered up a wall and escaped on Aug. 31. That was nine days after he was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder in the April 2021 killing of his former girlfriend.

Bivens said a tripped burglar alarm shortly after midnight focused investigators’ attention on the area. The heat signal was picked up not long after by a Drug Enforcement Administration aircraft that was assisting in the search, and officers gathered to move in.

Officers surprised Cavalcante, who tried to “crawl through thick underbrush, taking his rifle with him as he went,” Bivens said. A police dog was sent in after Cavalcante, and he was quickly taken into custody.

Here’s what to know:

— Authorities shifted their search to an area about 30 miles north of the jail over the weekend, after Cavalcante slipped through a law enforcement perimeter. On Monday night, officials said, Cavalcante stole a .22-caliber rifle from an open garage as the homeowner fired at him with a pistol.

— To make a break for it, the 5-foot tall prisoner crab-walked between two walls in the prison exercise yard, following a route that another prisoner had used in May. He then pushed through razor wires — which had been installed after the previous breakout attempt — and fled across the roof, over a fence and through more razor wire to freedom. A week into the search, the prison fired a corrections officer who had been stationed in a watchtower but failed to see Cavalcante break out.

— During the search’s early days, residents in a quiet stretch of woods and farmland about an hour’s drive outside Philadelphia were forced to live with a relentless unease. Teams of police officers jogged through backyards in search of Cavalcante, while drones and helicopters filled the skies.

— Cavalcante has successfully eluded capture before. He disappeared into the wilderness of northern Brazil after an arrest warrant was issued for him there in connection with a 2017 murder.

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