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Danelo Cavalcante killed his girlfriend in front of her children. Now he’s on the run after a prison escape


Danelo Cavalcante was convicted of murder charges last month for brutally stabbing his former girlfriend to death in front of her children.

Less than two weeks after receiving a life sentence, the 34-year-old sparked fresh terror as he broke free from a Pennsylvania jail.

A massive manhunt is now underway to locate Cavalcante, who is to be considered “extremely dangerous”.

Cavalcante was found guilty of the murder of Deborah Brandao on 16 August – more than two years after he stabbed her 38 times with a kitchen knife in Schuylkill Township back in April 2021. Prosecutors said he killed Brandao to stop her from telling police about an active arrest warrant he was facing for another alleged murder in his home country of Brazil in 2017.

Just days into beginning his life sentence for Brandao’s killing, Cavalcante broke free from the Chester State Prison on the morning of 31 August.

Here is everything we know about Cavalcante and his escape:

The escape

Cavalcante escaped from the Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township, Pennsylvania, at around 8.50am on Thursday (31 August).

The escaped murderer was last captured on camera at Longwood Gardens in East Marlborough Township, Chester County, on Monday (4 September.)

He travelled north at around 8.21pm and was then spotted coming past the camera again at 9.33pm local time.

As a result, police have now shifted and expanded the police perimeter and shuttered nearby schools.

The images show that Cavalcante has obtained a backpack and a hooded sweatshirt during his escape.

Danelo Cavalcante captured on a trail camera at Longwood Garden

(PA State Trooper and Chester County District Attorney)

Cavalcante has been seen at the intersection of Routes 926 and 52, north on Route 52 to Parkersville Road, southeast to Route 926 and west to the intersection of Routes 926 and 52 in Pocopson Township, police said.

There have also been two reported burglaries in the area that police have investigated, but these are not currently confirmed to be linked to the escaped prisoner.

However, Lt Colonel George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police said that the incidents “are of interest to us”.

In an image previously released by the Chester County District Attorney, Cavalcante was wearing pants, a light-coloured t-shirt, white sneakers and a backpack. He is described as having long, black curly hair and police said his “appearance has remained unchanged.”

Local authorities received a report of an attempted burglary in the area just an hour before Cavalcante was captured on surveillance, but it is not immediately clear if he was involved.

Cavalcante was last seen on surveillance footage about one and a half miles from the prison at around 12.30pm on Saturday

(Chester County district attorney office)

Police haven’t disclosed the circumstances of how Cavalcante managed to escape Chester State Prison and have said the incident remains under investigation.

“A search of the prison and surrounding area is currently being conducted,” the Chester County’s district attorney’s office initially said.

“Notification of the escape has been communicated to all residents within a six-mile radius of the prison. Chester County Detectives and the Pennsylvania State Police are conducting a thorough county-wide search, and prison officials are conducting an internal investigation.”

Given the danger around the situation, residents have been asked to “remain indoors at this time. Lock your vehicles. Review your surveillance cameras and contact police if you observe anything suspicious,” DA Deb Ryan said.

Search continues for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante

The manhunt

Police put out a poster with images of Cavalcante, both caught on the CCTV footage and a picture of him from prison.

Authorities said in a “case outline” that there would be a “combined reward” of $5,000 from the US Marshals Service and $5,000 from Chester County.

“Danelo Souza Cavalcante is wanted by Chester County Detectives, Pennsylvania State Police and the United States Marshals Service (USMS) for escaping from the Chester County

“Prison on 8/31/2023. Cavalcante is also wanted for homicide in Brazil. He is a Brazilian national fluent in Portuguese and Spanish,” the wanted poster reads.

Authorities said law enforcement teams, including the US Marshals, SWAT and other federal agencies, have joined the search to find Cavalcante.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports US Marshal Supervisory Agent Robert Clark said Friday that the agency had received more than 100 tips from residents.

It was reported by the outlet that the marshals employed helicopters, drones and other resources to search for Cavalcante in the heavily wooded areas near the prison.

Law enforcement also blasted a message from his mother, speaking in Portuguese, into his hiding place from police helicopters and patrol cars.

Robert Clark, supervisory deputy US Marshal for the Easter District of Pennsylvania spoke at a conference explaining why these tactics were being deployed.

“As desperate as he is, maybe he has a change of thought and hears his mother telling him to surrender, and his family cares about him,” Mr Clark said.

“Perhaps this is what puts him over the edge where we can get a peaceful surrender.”

While Mr Clark did not confirm the exact wording of the message to Cavalcante, he said that the killer’s mother was urging him to turn himself in to authorities.

“She’s just encouraging that his family loves him, and that she wants him to surrender. And that’s what our hope is as well,” he said.

The murder

Cavalcante was convicted of the murder of 33-year-old Deboral Brandao on 16 August after the jury deliberated for just 15 minutes. He was sentenced to life in prison on 22 August.

Cavalcante and Brandao reportedly met through mutual friends and moved in together with her two children not long after their two-year relationship began.

Prosecutors outlined his domestic abuse against Brandao during the trial.

Deborah Brandao (pictured) was stabbed to death in front of her children in April 2021

(Brandao family handout)

It was reported that in June 2020, Cavalcante bit Brandao on her lip hard enough to draw blood and chased her and her children out of their home. Brandao and her kids hid in a neighbour’s apartment and a warrant was issued by police for Cavalcante’s arrest. However, he did not turn himself in.

Later that year, Cavalcante allegedly attacked Brandao again, chasing her with a knife, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Brandao then filed for a temporary abuse order against him, but this lapsed in March 2021 when she did not appear at a hearing.

According to evidence presented at the trial, the two kept in touch and police said Cavalcante drove to Brandao’s home to confront her in April 2021.

While Brandao’s children, then aged seven and three, were playing nearby, Cavalcante pulled her hair and threw her to the ground. He then began to stab her repeatedly.

Brandao was later pronounced dead at Paoli Hospital, the outlet said. Two friends of Cavalcante testified during his trial that they helped the murder convict escape and gave him clean clothes so he could “disappear” for a while.

Prosecutors said Cavalcante killed Brandao to stop her from telling police about his outstanding arrest warrant for murder in Brazil.

He was captured in Virginia shortly after the stabbing, while police said he was attempting to return to Brazil.

Cavalcante is described as a 5 foot Brazilian man with light complexion, shaggy, black curly hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information about Cavalcante’s current whereabouts is asked to call 911 or the US Marshals’ Tipline at 877-WANTED-2.


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