34-year-old Brazilian Danelo Cavalcante, sentenced in the United States to life in prison for the murder of his former partner, was on the run from a manhunt by American services for 13 days. Before the police dog caught him, the fugitive was moving through the forest and breaking into houses.
Danelo Cavalcante, who escaped from the Chester County Jail in Pennsylvania on August 31, has been recaptured, local police said on Wednesday. Coming from Brazil Cavalcante was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her two young children, the BBC reported. He was on the run from the police for 13 days. Authorities said the 34-year-old was desperate and resourceful, outpacing the services’ movements for days.
Just after escaping from prison, Cavalcante broke into a house in Chester County, probably looking for provisions. He found a peach, an apple and some peas.
He then found himself within steps of the man who lived in the house with his family, Ryan Drummond. Hearing the intruder, he said, he turned the lights on and off, only to see Cavalcante moving around the house before fleeing.
Drummond, after Cavalcante’s capture, said that he could not shake off the fear caused by the manhunt that took place in his neighborhood and, for a moment, in his home. He described hearing a noise or seeing a flash of light in his kitchen almost every night since meeting Cavalcante. He described his condition as “paranoia”. Even the night after the Brazilian was caught, Drummond stood upstairs in his house, bat in hand, listening for any movement in the area.
Over the next few days, Cavalcante was seen at least twice in the search area designated by authorities. On September 4, he was seen again, this time caught on camera in a densely forested area near Longwood Gardens, a botanical garden covering an area of approximately 445 hectares. For the police, this was a signal that the fugitive had left the initial search area.
He tried to change his appearance
Cavalcante soon took advantage of the contents of the backpack – he stole it from a house located near the prison from which he escaped. He found a razor in his bag and used it to shave his beard in an attempt to make himself less recognizable. Standing just over 5 feet tall and weighing less than 55 kilograms, Cavalcante tried to wander through the woods of Chester County undetected, hoping to leave the region for Canada or Puerto Rico, authorities said.
“He only moved at night, slept during the day and used the tree line” to plan his next moves, said Robert Clark, deputy superintendent of the U.S. Marshals Service (a government agency responsible for, among other things, searching for prison escapees) in an interview.
When authorities learned that Cavalcante had been captured on one of the cameras on September 4, they changed the search area. While police were canvassing the area, the fugitive came across two unlocked vehicles and stole one of them, which contained the keys. The Brazilian started moving north and tried to reach his former colleagues. However, the car’s fuel tank was supposed to be only one-quarter full.
At one point he was captured again by a camera, this time built into one of the intercoms, he was clean-shaven and wearing a stolen hoodie. All the while, the scale of the Cavalcante manhunt was growing, involving hundreds of local, federal and state officers, supported by police dogs and aircraft.
“Desperate people do desperate things”
At one point, Cavalcante had not eaten for three days, and as the search continued, he considered giving up, Clark said. – It was difficult to live there – he said, describing the conditions in which the fugitive operated. Instead of giving up, however, he kept moving and broke into more houses, Clark added.
As he moved through the forest, he took steps to cover his tracks, sometimes covering his droppings with leaves to avoid being tracked, Clark described. He drank water from the stream. At one point he found himself on a watermelon farm and tried to halve one of them, smashing it with his head.
“Desperate people do desperate things,” said Lenny DePaul, former commander of the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force in New York and New Jersey.
Last Sunday, the police found the van used by the Brazilian. The next night, based on tips from a person driving in the area, authorities discovered prints in the mud that matched the pattern of Cavalcante’s prison shoes. Probably realizing that he was leaving traces, the fugitive abandoned his shoes, stealing others from one of the nearby houses.
That same night, Cavalcante came across an open garage in South Coventry Township and spotted a rifle. He grabbed it, but the intruder was noticed by the owner of the house who fired several shots at him with a gun. However, Cavalcante was not hit and disappeared again. The news that the Brazilian was armed caused alarm throughout the county.
Cavalcante tamed by a dog
The plane involved in the operation helped locate the fugitive. However, his capture was delayed by a lightning storm. The search team secured the area until the weather improved. State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said crews entered peacefully early Wednesday morning and the Brazilian “didn’t realize he was surrounded until it was too late.”
However, this did not stop him from trying to escape. As Bivens reported, the fugitive began to crawl through the thick bushes, carrying a rifle. One of the officers who took part in catching the man released a specially trained dog from its leash to stop the escaping man. Bivens said Cavalcante was slightly bitten by the dog. He added that even then he resisted, to no avail.
Hours after his capture, the fugitive was transported to the maximum security state prison in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, where he is serving a life sentence.
Main photo source: twitter.com/PAStatePolice