Danelo Cavalcante plotted to carjack vehicle, flee the country as manhunt intensified: officials

Recaptured murderer Danelo Cavalcante told investigators he planned to carjack a vehicle and flee the country as he felt the manhunt intensify around him, law enforcement sources said. 

Cavalcante, 34, acrobatically escaped Chester County Prison on Aug. 31 and sparked a frantic two-week-long manhunt that involved hundreds of law enforcement agents and terrorized quiet rural communities west of Philadelphia. Search parties spent days scouring the lush terrain near Longwood Gardens and were forced to expand their search 20 miles north when Cavalcante snuck past their perimeter in a stolen van. 

Authorities said Cavalcante eluded law enforcement agents by only moving at night, and surveyed police search perimeters to know when it was safe to escape. He hid underneath thick underbrush and search parties unsuspectingly came within 7 yards of him on three occasions, according to officials.

While on the run, sources say Cavalcante used stream water and a stolen watermelon for nourishment. He traveled lightly, according to a authorities, carrying a backpack that authorities later found containing a razor that he used to shave and alter his appearance.

"The first time he ate was when he found a watermelon on a farm. He said he actually opened it with his head and started drinking stream water," Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Clark said. "The backpack that he had stolen within the first couple days when he started to move, there was a razor in that backpack."

The manhunt heated up in the countryside town of East Nantmeal, where Cavalcante ditched the stolen van and was spotted near a wood line by a woman who alerted police. That same night, Cavalcante, desperate for a hiding spot, entered an unlocked garage where he stole a .22 caliber rifle before encountering a homeowner who fired several shots but missed the fugitive as he fled. 

Cavalcante told investigators that he noticed the heightened aerial search as the manhunt wore on, and planned to carjack a vehicle in the coming days to drive to Mexico or Canada, authorities said. He told interviewers that he considered giving up and was not willing to die while on the run. 

"He had heard the helicopter, he had heard the Brazilian message that we were playing and at times he was thinking of giving up," Clark said. "He had made a statement that he knew he had to pay for what he did, however, he wasn't willing to pay with his life."


Pennsylvania State Police established and refined search perimeters as their manhunt shifted to East Nantmeal Township. Authorities got a bead on Cavalcante using thermal imaging technology aboard a fixed wing aircraft and tracked him to a weak hiding spot near a tractor supply business Thursday morning where a mix of heavily armed Boarder Patrol Agents and Pennsylvania State Police Troopers surrounded and captured the fugitive.

Cavalcante was arraigned at the Avondale barracks on an escape charge, according to the office of Judge Matthew Seavey. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Sept. 27. He was led out with his hands and bare feet shackled, wearing what appeared to be a hospital gown. Cavalcante was driven to a state prison outside Philadelphia to continue serving the life sentence he received last month for killing his ex-girlfriend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report