Home » Search for Fugitive Killer Danelo Cavalcante Takes an Alarming Turn

Search for Fugitive Killer Danelo Cavalcante Takes an Alarming Turn

The escaped killer Danelo Cavalcante continued to be a thorn in the side of Pennsylvania cops overnight Monday, pulling off a daring home burglary where he dodged “several” shots from a homeowner, stole a .22-caliber rifle, and evaded responding officers to disappear once again.

Cops provided the alarming update in a Tuesday morning press conference, admitting to residents that Cavalcante is no longer just “extremely dangerous,” but he’s also armed.

“We have always considered him to be a risk,” said State Police Lt. Colonel George Bivens. “We just now absolutely know that he has a weapon.”

It’s a nightmare scenario for Pennsylvania residents and cops alike, who’ve chased Cavalcante to no avail for 13 days since he scaled the walls of Chester County Prison—where he was serving a life sentence without parole for the stabbing murder of his ex-girlfriend. (He previously escaped law enforcement in Brazil after shooting a man dead in 2017, The New York Times reported Monday.)

A day after announcing cops would no longer use perimeters to search for Cavalcante, Bivens said Tuesday that officers had re-established a perimeter it believes Cavalcante is within. The area included much of North Coventry Township, where schools have been closed indefinitely but no evacuations ordered.

Danelo Cavalcante in stills from a security camera.

Pennsylvania State Police

Bivens said he believes Cavalcante’s rifle theft was a “crime of opportunity,” swiped from a garage that was left open. He speculated that Cavalcante entered the garage to hide, but grabbed the rifle once he saw it sitting unsecured. A homeowner spotted a shirtless Cavalcante and fired “several shots” with a pistol, Bivens said, but none are believed to have hit him. The stolen rifle is equipped with a scope and flashlight, Bivens said.

The burglary incident wasn’t the only confirmed sighting of Cavalcante on Monday. Earlier that evening, a woman spotted a man crouched near the wood-line of a road, Bivens said. Cops were dispatched to the area and they discovered foot prints in the mud that matched Cavalcante’s prison shoes, but there was no sign of Cavalcante himself. Later that evening, a woman who lived nearby reported that a pair of work boots had been swiped from her front porch.

Franco Rosa, Cavalcante’s former roommate, told Fox 29 that fear is permeating throughout Chester County.

“If I’m nervous, can you imagine the ex-girlfriend’s sister who’s taking care of the two kids?” Rosa said. “They are super scared. My cousin has kids in school in Phoenixville. They are scared, too.”

Authorities said the family of Deborah Brandão, who Cavalcante murdered for threatening to alert Brazilian authorities to his whereabouts, has been given around-the-clock security.

Brandão sister, Sarah Brandão, told CNN in Portuguese on Tuesday that she hasn’t slept in “many days” and that, when she does get a nap in, she wakes up with “fright.”

She recalled Cavalcante being quiet and reserved, but said he showed signs of aggression, and Deborah once said Cavalcante threatened to “do the worst” to her if she ever cheated on him.

While on the run, Cavalcante has shown repeatedly that he’s not afraid to steal. He stole a van last week and drove it dozens of miles until it ran out of gas, and managed to swipe new clothes since to wear. He also showed up at an ex-colleague’s home to plea for help through a Ring doorbell camera, but they turned the video over to cops.

Bivens pushed back aggressively against suggestions that his agency’s blunders have allowed Cavalcante to escape their grasps repeatedly. The fugitive even possibly crawled under cops’ perimeter using drains and underground tunnels over the weekend.

“I don’t know why you would think something has gone wrong,” Bivens shot back at a reporter Tuesday. “Our law enforcement people have done an amazing job tracking him and locating that proverbial needle in the haystack. And they’ve located that needle repeatedly.”

The manhunt for Cavalcante now includes upwards of 500 officers, Bivens said, some of whom have worked shifts as long as 24 hours. Agencies assisting in the search include the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Bivens claimed Tuesday that cops should hold the advantage now that Cavalcante is in a more rural area—despite his past run from police where he successfully disappeared into the Brazilian bush.

“It’s a large area, wooded, hilly terrain,” Bivens said, referring to the new perimeter. “It’s not something that it’s a matter of sending a few people in and searching.”

Danelo Cavalcante stares forward in a mugshot.

Mugshot for Danelo Cavalcante from his 2021 arrest.

Pennsylvania State Police

Cavalcante, now 34, went on the run in Brazil after he shot a man dead in 2017, reportedly because had an unsettled debt with him. Residents there told The New York Times that Cavalcante, who worked and lived on ranches his whole life, seemingly disappeared into the woods outside town—never to be heard of again until last month’s prison escape made international news.

For days near search perimeters, cops have been blasting audio of Cavalcante’s mother, Iracema Cavalcante, pleading to her son to turn himself in. Speaking to the Times from Brazil, however, Iracema bizarrely said it’d be better for her son to ask God for forgiveness and die now than it would to spend a lifetime back behind bars.

“If it’s to go to a place to suffer and die in that place, it’s better to die soon,” she said. “You don’t have to suffer so much.”

She claimed her son isn’t a threat to the public, justifying his pair of grisly murders by insisting he was backed into a corner. She claimed the man he shot was plotting to kill him, and he only killed Brandão because she was threatening to turn him in.

Authorities said Cavalcante escaped Brazil using a false identity and made it to America, though details on how he arrived stateside remain murky. He had lived and worked in Pennsylvania, where he stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death in front of her young kids in 2021.

Cavalcante’s violent past has cops fearing he won’t hesitate to use his new rifle if put in a hairy situation.

“He’s killed two people previously,” Bivens said. “I would suspect that he’s desperate enough to use that weapon.”


September 2023