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What we know about the search for escaped Pennsylvania inmate Danelo Cavalcante

A screenshot from the video released by the Chester County Prison shows the moment escaped Pennsylvania inmate Danelo Cavalcante begins to crabwalk up a wall and out of sight.
Chester County District Attorney
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A screenshot from the video released by the Chester County Prison shows the moment escaped Pennsylvania inmate Danelo Cavalcante begins to crabwalk up a wall and out of sight.

Updated September 8, 2023 at 6:15 PM ET

A convicted murderer who prompted a massive manhunt in Pennsylvania made his brazen escape from a jail yard outside Philadelphia by scaling a wall sideways, climbing over razor wire and jumping from a roof, authorities said.

Danelo Cavalcante, a 34-year-old Brazilian man who fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend, escaped from the Chester County Prison last Thursday, sparking a massive manhunt and stressing communities in eastern Pennsylvania.

Here's the latest.

What does the video show?

Police released security video during a news conference on Wednesday showing Cavalcante beginning his escape.

Cavalcante is seen standing in a jail yard passageway and checking his surroundings before he places his hands on the wall, then walking his feet up backward so he begins moving perpendicularly. After seven seconds, he disappears out of the camera's view.

Howard Holland, the acting warden of the Chester County Prison, said the prison was fully staffed at the time of Cavalcante's escape, but it took guards more than an hour to notify local emergency authorities of the breakout.

Guards first noticed Cavalcante was missing during an inmate count around 9:45 a.m., roughly 50 minutes after he climbed the wall, according to the security camera tape.

A tower guard who'd been on duty at the time was put on leave as part of the investigation.

Did the prison know this was a possible escape route?

The route was the same one another prisoner used to escape in May, according to Holland. But in that case, a tower guard sounded an alarm and the inmate was returned within minutes.

Holland said the prison added razor wire to the area after a consultant reviewed the details of the first escape.

"What was perhaps overlooked was the fact that addressing the single point of physical countermeasures should have been bolstered by additional means," Holland said on Wednesday. "We are addressing that."

The prison is also considering caging in all eight exercise yards at the prison and staffing more guards to supervise recreation times.

The corrections officer who was on duty at the time of the escape was fired, according to Chester County, Pa., spokeswoman Michelle E. Bjork. He was an 18-year-veteran.

What's happening with the search?

A surveillance camera captured Danelo Cavalcante travelling through the Longwood Gardens Botanical grounds on Monday night.
/ Chester County District Attorney
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Chester County District Attorney
A surveillance camera captured Danelo Cavalcante travelling through the Longwood Gardens Botanical grounds on Monday night.

A manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officers, drones, helicopters and K-9 units has been expanding since Cavalcante's disappearance.

Police have confirmed seven sightings of Cavalcante since his escape. The most recent sighting occurred on Thursday just before noon local time. Authorities told reporters during a news conference Thursday there was a possible sighting of Cavalcante in the vicinity of Longwood Gardens, an hour south of Philadelphia.

Investigators believe Cavalcante is somewhere within the search perimeter.

"A search of that area has been underway for the past few hours and continues at this time," Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens told reporters Thursday.

On Tuesday, Cavalcante was spotted walking into the woods behind a residential area in the Pennsbury Township.

The night before, a trail surveillance camera captured him twice walking through Longwood Gardens, a botanical center located about three miles away from the prison. At that point, he was carrying a duffel bag, a backpack and a hoodie.

Pocopson, Penn., resident Ryan Drummond told several media outlets that he believed Cavalcante entered his home late Friday.

Drummond, who said his wife and kids are trying to balance a busy life of work and school, said his home's French doors had a broken lock, and that Cavalcante may have overheard a conversation about that lock as the family was checking doors that evening.

The intruder left with "a peach, an apple, maybe a few snap peas" along with a white hat that were all left behind on a kitchen counter, Drummond told the Associated Press.The hat was later found in a neighbor's yard.

Where are authorities searching now?

Authorities have sent reverse 9-1-1 alert calls to residents as recently as Wednesday, and are still asking residents to keep their homes locked and to be on the lookout for missing cars, bicycles or transportation.

A recording of Cavalcante's motherasking, in Portuguese, for his peaceful surrender is being broadcast from helicopters flying over the search area.

A combination of the thick brush and scorching temperatures have complicated the search, according to NPR member station WHYY. Excessive heat has rendered thermal cameras unusable and led to the hospitalization of one tactical search dog.

Police are currently focusing on an area that stretches roughly seven square miles around Pocopson, about 25 miles west of Philadelphia. Reinforcements from the Pennsylvania State Police, FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are on hand to assist with the search.

Cavalcante appears to be traveling south, according to Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bevins.

Bevins told reporters that he had "some ideas" as to Cavalcante's intended destination, but he declined to share those with reporters on Wednesday.

Two school districts in the area closed their doors earlier this week but began to reopen some of the schools on Thursday, with special escorts for students taking the bus in and out of search areas.

The reward now stands at $20,000 for any information leading to his arrest, WHYY reported.

Who is Danelo Cavalcante?

The inmate was awaiting transfer to a state prison where he'd serve out a life sentence for a homicide.

A jury took just 15 minutes to convict Cavalcante last month for fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandão, in front of her children in 2021.

Prosecutors said that he killed Brandão to stop her from telling police that he was wanted for a 2017 killing in Brazil.

Cavalcante was captured for Brandão's killing in Virginia, where authorities said he had been trying to flee to his native country.

Brazil has been watching the manhunt unfold with intense fascination. The main newspaper in Rio de Janeiro ran a lengthy story on the manhunt on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. The piece bore the headline, "dangerous hide-and-seek."

There's no reason to suspect Cavalcante's appearance has changed since he fled, according to Bevins. He stands 5 feet tall, weighs 120 pounds and sports a closely cropped beard and mustache below curly black hair.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a reporter on the Newshub covering general assignment and international and domestic breaking news.
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