SOUTH COVENTRY TWP. (FWRD AXIS) –
These were the words that echoed over radios across Chester County, Pennsylvania this morning as the 14-day manhunt for convicted murderer Danelo Souza Cavalcante, an escaped fugitive from Chester County Prison, came to an end following an intense two-week manhunt that had the local community on edge.
This dramatic pursuit concluded through the strategic deployment of thermal imaging technology and a well-executed tactical operation that took the fugitive by surprise.
Danelo Souza Cavalcante was sentenced to life without parole in mid-August after he was convicted of the 2021 murder of his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandao. He became enraged when she threatened to turn him in to the authorities for a murder he was wanted for in his native Brazil. Cavalcante stabbed Brandao upwards of 38 times in front of her very young children and succumbed to her wounds. Cavalcante attempted to flee at that time, but was captured in Virginia.
According to friends and family of Brandao, Cavalcante would drink heavily and become physically and verbally abusive; the crescendo of which ultimately resulted in her brutal, undeserved, and tragic demise.
On the morning of August 31, Cavalcante daringly maneuvered between two walls fortified with razor wire before making a leap from the prison’s rooftop, managing to evade capture for an extended period. It would take prison officials an hour before realizing that Cavalcante was gone and the alarms to sound. It was later revealed that the guard in the tower overlooking the yard was fired as a result of the escape and their role in failing to ensure the confinement of the prisoner and ensuring the safety of the surrounding community.
Cavalcante was spotted walking on Wawaset Rd near the prison early on, but he managed to evade detection as authorities began to mobilize.
Sightings would continue to be reported throughout the first few hours into the first week of the manhunt, taking hundreds of authorities from numerous agencies on a chase through the rough terrain of rural Pennsylvania; the famous Longwood Gardens being one of the main focal points of the search as Cavalcante moved in and out of the perimeter.
Residents from southern Chester County reported spotting Cavalcante on their home surveillance systems, with one family reporting an eerie burglary that took place wherein the resident heard Cavalcante downstairs in his kitchen. The resident flicked the lights on and off a few times and Cavalcante flicked them back in response. These kinds of chilling reports left a close-knit community on high alert with feelings of dread and unease and revealed just what kind of person they were dealing with.
On September 4, Cavalcante was picked up on trail cameras at Longwood Gardens (pictured below)
Reports of sightings continued to pour in from opposite areas in the search region, leading to shifting perimeters and some gaps that may not have been covered, which ultimately allowed Cavalcante to slip in and out, using bodies of water and trails as points of reference, finding sustenance in gardens, as the fugitive was no stranger to living off of the land.
Choppers, a DEA plane equipped with heat sensing technology, drones, hundreds of federal tactical agents, officers on horseback, and numerous resources were deployed in the area to aid in the capture of Cavalcante. In an effort to garner an emotional response, a PA State helicopter played a recording of Cavalcante’s mother pleading for him to surrender as it circled above, to no avail.
Pennsylvania State Police alerted the public of two confirmed sightings on September 8 in the Longwood Gardens area before the trail went cold.
Off The Trails
On September 9, the search perimeter shifted dramatically as a sighting of Cavalcante was reported and confirmed hours later, this time 28 miles away in the Phoenixville/Spring City area, well north of Longwood Gardens.
The startling revelation came when an ex-coworker of Cavalcante’s called police after Cavalcante attempted to visit the former colleague at his home on Bonnie Brae Rd in Spring City. The fugitive spoke with the homeowner on the Ring camera, attempting to gain assistance, which the person refused to partake in. The footage of the exchange was turned over to police and revealed that Cavalcante had changed his appearance dramatically, appearing clean-shaven and smiling – a demeanor that further left residents uneasy.
A second confirmed sighting was called in, this time from Phoenixville. This call indicated the suspect was in a white vehicle.
A call was put out by police to alert the public to check for stolen vehicles. This prompted the discovery of a stolen 2020 Ford Transit van with a refrigerator unit from Baily’s Dairy, a farm just 3/4 of a mile north of Longwood Gardens.
The revelation was captured in real time by reporter Nik Hatziefstathiou (Nik the Hat) on the YouTube channel he specifically created to keep local residents informed of developments. Authorities began to mobilize and set up a new command center in the new region and searching buildings and areas of interest.
Out Of Gas
After authorities shifted their search area, they began combing for clues and found the van at around 10:40am on Sunday, September 10, abandoned with an empty gas tank in a field behind a barn in East Nantmeal Township, just west of where the previous evening’s sightings were reported, yet not discovered until 12:30am. Authorities shifted the search to this region, which contains plenty of farmland and woods.
Armed & Dangerous
The next sighting took place in South Coventry Township, Chester County, around 8 p.m. on Monday, September 11, as a motorist reported observing a man crouched at the edge of a wooded area along Fairview Road. Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens disclosed this development during a press conference held on Tuesday morning. However, when the motorist returned to the location, the man had disappeared.
In response to this sighting, authorities swiftly established a perimeter around the area. A Border Patrol tactical team subsequently identified footprints that perfectly matched the type of jail shoes Cavalcante had been wearing. These distinctive shoes were discovered shortly thereafter. Additionally, a local resident informed authorities that work boots had been stolen from her porch, further implicating the fugitive.
Soon afterward, the police received another call from a resident residing on Coventryville Road. This resident reported an incident involving a short, shirtless Hispanic male who had entered his garage while the homeowner was inside, and the intruder had stolen a .22 caliber rifle. In response, the resident drew a pistol and fired at the intruder as he made his escape. Notably, Cavalcante’s sweatshirt was found near the edge of the driveway.
Emphasizing the heightened danger, Bivens stated that Cavalcante had always been considered dangerous but was now categorized as “armed and extremely dangerous.” Bivens expressed concerns about Cavalcante’s desperation, highlighting his past involvement in two homicides. Given his circumstances, Bivens feared that he might resort to using the stolen weapon.
The End Of The Road
Shortly after midnight September 13, law enforcement received notice of a residential burglar alarm activation in the vicinity of Prizer Road, an area well within the latest search perimeter, as revealed by Bivens during a press briefing. Although Cavalcante was not discovered at the scene, the alarm served as a catalyst for investigators to allocate additional resources to this specific location.
Approximately around 1 a.m., a specialized aircraft operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, equipped with thermal imaging technology, detected a heat signature west of Pennsylvania Route 100 and north of Prizer Road, according to Bivens. Law enforcement diligently tracked this signal, but regrettably, inclement weather conditions and lightning compelled the aircraft to depart the area.
By 8 a.m., tactical teams comprising state police and Border Patrol personnel began executing a strategic approach to the area where the heat source had been pinpointed, located behind Little’s, a tractor dealer in South Coventry Township.
Bivens noted their ability to move in discreetly, stating, “They had the element of surprise.” Cavalcante, equipped with the stolen rifle, attempted to evade capture by crawling through dense underbrush, as described by Bivens.
Border Patrol deployed a K9 unit, ultimately subduing Cavalcante. During the confrontation, Cavalcante sustained a minor scalp injury. Despite his resistance, law enforcement successfully apprehended him.
Following his capture, Cavalcante was transported to a state police facility for processing and questioning, as indicated by Bivens. Ultimately, he will be transferred to a state correctional institution to commence his life sentence.
During questioning, Cavalcante shared insight into some of his movements and plans via an interpreter.
As FOX 29’s Steve Keeley reports, “He intended to carjack someone in the next day & make his way to Canada or Mexico.” The illegal immigrant fugitive also divulged that he did his own surveillance of the areas and law enforcement movements and planned his movements accordingly.
Cavalcante faced arraignment on Wednesday morning on a felony escape charge, according to court records. The charge was filed on the day of his escape, as highlighted by Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry in a news release issued on Wednesday.
Consequently, Cavalcante, who had managed to escape from a county facility while awaiting transfer to a state prison, has been transported to SCI Phoenix, a maximum security state prison in Montgomery County to initiate his sentence for the murder conviction, as confirmed by officials.
Residents are breathing a collective sigh of relief and will be able to sleep tonight with Cavalcante behind bars for the rest of his natural life.
“Our nightmare is finally over, and the good guys won,” Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan declared.
There will surely be more details brought forth once all of the law enforcement agencies complete their investigations and questions will be answered. The important thing is that no one else was harmed and communities can resume living their lives feeling safe and peaceful.
Editor’s note: Fwrd Axis would like to thank the brave men and women who came together to bring a peaceful resolution to the manhunt and Cavalcante to justice. We would also like to thank all sources, as well as fellow independent journalists on the ground, following and live-streaming tirelessly day after day, night after night until the manhunt ended. Specifically, we’d like to give a special thanks to Nik Hatziefstathiou and Jonathan Lee Riches (JLRInvestigates) for providing residents and news outlets with up-to-date and confirmed information throughout the case.