Pennsylvania Prison Escapee Now Armed After Stealing Rifle From Homeowner

The fugitive stole a .22 caliber rifle with scope and flashlight in a dramatic confrontation with a homeowner.
Pennsylvania Prison Escapee Now Armed After Stealing Rifle From Homeowner
Inmate Danelo Cavalcante scales a wall to escape from Chester County Prison in West Chester, Pa., on Aug. 31, 2023. (Chester County Prison via AP/Screenshot via NTD)
Beth Brelje

Convicted murderer Danelo Souza Cavalcante has become more dangerous since his Aug. 31 escape from Chester County Prison in Pennsylvania. Officials say he has stolen a .22 caliber rifle with a scope and flashlight mounted on it after a dramatic confrontation with a homeowner.

The gun was stolen the night of Monday, Sept. 11, in a chain of events that started when a motorist in South Coventry Township noticed a man crouched down near the woods. She turned her vehicle around to get another look, but he was gone.

“We had a large number of troopers already in the area and utilize them to form a perimeter around that area,” Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police said in a press conference Tuesday morning. “A border patrol tactical team was also in the immediate vicinity and went directly to the location of the site. They observed footprints in some mud, which were identical to the prison shoes worn by Cavalcante.”

Searchers tracked the footprints and soon found the prison shoes. Shortly after that, officials received word that a pair of work boots had been stolen from the porch of a home in the immediate area.

The tracking continued and at 10:10 p.m., a resident on Coventryville Road called 911 to report a short Hispanic male with no shirt and wearing dark pants had entered his garage while the homeowner was in the garage.

Mr. Cavalcante grabbed the rifle that was leaning in the corner of the garage.

“The homeowner drew a pistol and fired at Cavalcante as he fled with the rifle. [Pennsylvania State Police] responded and secured that scene. At that time, a green sweatshirt and white t-shirt, believed to belong to Cavalcante, were discovered near the edge of the driveway,” Lt. Col. Bivens said. “The perimeter was expanded to include that area. Overnight, searches of the area within the perimeter were conducted by tactical teams from multiple agencies. Teams from Pennsylvania State Police, border patrol, ATF, FBI, U.S. Marshals and Chester County have been active through the night.”

Major Search Operation

Upward of 500 law enforcement officers are engaged in securing the perimeter and in conducting the searches, Lt. Col. Bivens said.

“I think he was being pushed by the teams that were pursuing him from the original sighting. I think—in my opinion—I believe it was a crime of opportunity. I think he went in there probably trying to hide. The garage door was open. He didn’t, I believe, recognize that the owner was in there. I think he was probably looking for a place to hide, ran for that garage, saw the firearm, grabbed that, encountered the homeowner, and fled with the firearm.”

Law enforcement has considered Mr. Cavalcante extremely dangerous before, but with confirmation that he has a gun, officials sent out several reverse 911 messages to local residents, and schools in the affected area have been closed.

Lt. Col. Bivens said they do not believe Mr. Cavalcante was injured as a result of the homeowner shooting his pistol.

“The search area is probably close to three miles across, east to west, and 2 to 2 1/2 miles north to south,” Lt. Col. Bivens said. “It’s a large area of wooded, hilly terrain. It’s not something that it’s a matter of just sending a few people in and searching. We’ve had a number of tactical teams operating in there through the night. We continue to have teams operating there now. It will take a long time to clear that entire area. We will continue until we do locate him.”

Crawled Through Razor Wire

Residents in the search area have been advised by state police to lock all doors and windows, secure vehicles, remain indoors, and call 911 if they see Mr. Cavalcante, but they are not to approach him.

Since he fled the prison, Mr. Cavalcante has found changes of clothing, shaved his facial hair, and stolen a van which he abandoned when it ran out of gas.

An illegal immigrant from Brazil, Mr. Cavalcante speaks Portuguese and some Spanish, but very little English. His escape was captured on prison security video. Climbing up the wall of an outdoors hallway in the exercise yard, Mr. Cavalcante climbed onto the prison roof, navigated newly placed razor wire, and left the building.

Another inmate, Igor Bolte, escaped the same way on May 19, before the razor wire was installed, but a guard saw him. Mr. Bolte was captured in five minutes. Officials added razor wire after Mr. Bolte’s escape.

Mr. Cavalcante, 34, was sentenced to life in prison for the Aug. 16, 2021, stabbing murder of his former girlfriend, 33-year-old Deborah Brandão, in front of her two young children. Mr. Cavalcante is also wanted in Brazil for a 2017 homicide.

His sister, Eleni Cavalcante was taken into custody this week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. She has not cooperated with authorities in their search for Mr. Cavalcante, Lt. Col. Bivens said. Ms. Cavalcante has overstayed her visa and may face deportation.

Anyone with information about Mr. Cavalcante or suspected sightings has been asked to contact the tip line at 717-562-2987. There is a $25,000 reward.

Beth Brelje is an award-winning Epoch Times reporter who covers U.S. politics, state news, and national issues. Ms. Brelje previously worked in radio for 20 years and after moving to print, worked at Pocono Record and Reading Eagle. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]
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