Relief for Chester County residents after the capture of escaped prisoner Danilo Cavalcanti; Police confirm details of the chase
POCOPSSON — Two weeks ago, around 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31, District Attorney Deb Ryan was driving toward the Chester County Jail to respond to the news that Danilo Souza Cavalcanti, the man she had watched just days earlier, was being sentenced to prison. Life in prison, he has escaped.
On Wednesday, Ryan stood before a crowd of media figures, elected officials and law enforcement officers to announce that Cavalcanti had been arrested and that the shock county residents from south to north faced over his flight could subside.
“Today is a great day here in Chester County,” she said as Gov. Josh Shapiro and State Police Commissioner Col. Christopher Parris looked on. “Our nightmare is finally over and the good guys have won. Our community can finally regain normalcy and breathe a collective sigh of relief.
And that’s pretty much what county residents and visitors did Thursday, as they returned to their normal routines and shook off the uneasy feeling that something terrible might happen if Cavalcanti continued to roam freely in the county, armed with a .22-caliber rifle — desperate. And “extremely dangerous.”
“We are very relieved that he has been caught,” said Aleida Diaz, administrative assistant for the town of Pocopson, whose offices are across the road from the prison complex and where the first press briefings during the escape were held.
“We would close our doors and windows and leave the house on with outside lighting at night,” said Diaz, who lives in nearby Kennett Square. “We locked all the car doors. But I think they did a great job catching him. They were up against a lot. I’m thankful for them.”
“I think today was a collective exhalation in Chester County,” she said.
Cavalcanti, 34, of Montgomery County, was arrested Wednesday morning by a tactical team of State Police and U.S. Border Patrol officers, aided in large part by a K-9 officer, a Belgian Malinois named Yoda who came from El Paso, Texas, to join the Fishing in South Coventry.
The aircraft used in the search identified a thermal in a wooded area north of Praiser Road near Route 100, not far from the Little John Deere store Tuesday night, and the team of about a dozen officers was able to track it into the woods. About 8 a.m., said Lt. Col. George Bivins, deputy commissioner of operations who led the search and provided regular briefings to the press at the closing news conference at the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company in Unionville.
Cavalcanti was arrested unawares.
They were able to move very quietly. “They had the element of surprise,” Bivins said of the team. “Cavalcanti didn’t realize he was trapped until it happened.”
He did not surrender immediately, but tried to scramble through the bushes, dragging with him the .22-caliber rifle he had stolen the night before. But Yoda was able to subdue him until the human officers took him into custody. Bivins said he suffered a head wound from a bite from a K-9.
Chester County Chief of Detectives Dave Sasa, a familiar presence at daily news conferences about the manhunt, said Thursday that the experience was eye-opening from a professional perspective.
“This was the largest investigation I have ever been involved in in my 35 years of police work,” he said in his office at the county justice center. “There were over 500 officers, from multiple agencies, and they were all cooperating seamlessly. When you have that many agencies working together, it’s hard to describe. No one ever complained, and that shows great leadership from Lt. Col. Bivins.”
“We followed our plan and eventually found him,” Sasa said.
He confirmed that Cavalcanti, once in custody, had a voluntary interview at the Avondale State Police barracks, where he was held under heavy security. Most of what was discussed in the two-hour interview is confidential, as it relates to the ongoing escape investigation being conducted by the state Attorney General’s Office.
But Sassa confirmed that Cavalcanti said he was relying on watermelons from agricultural fields. Drink water from vapors and streams. It hid during the day and moved at night, hiding in the deep bushes; He was almost caught once or twice but went unnoticed by the searchers who were only a few meters away; He kept his feces hidden so that the tracking dogs would not pick up his scent.
But Sassa said that although Cavalcanti had the goal of escaping to New York, then to Canada, then back to his native Brazil, he had no firm plan or any real help. He was “swinging” as Bivens expected.
As evidence of this, Sassa said, until he managed to steal a car at a farm near the prison, Cavalcanti could not get more than five miles from the prison in 10 days. The car he stole had to be abandoned because he ran out of fuel and he had no resources to fill it.
After his interview, Cavalcanti was transported by armored transport to the State Correctional Institution in Phoenix in Montgomery County, (at the former SCI Graterford site) where he would be held until he could be transferred to a maximum security prison for those sentenced to life without parole. . He is prisoner QP8931.
He has been formally charged with escape and is awaiting a preliminary hearing on September 27. Escape status, if any.
Cavalcanti was convicted of first-degree murder and possession of a crime instrument in the 2021 death of his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao. He was wanted by police on an arrest warrant for assault, but became angry when she told him she had learned of his arrest in Brazil and planned to inform police of his whereabouts because Keep teasing her.
On April 18, 2021, he drove from his home in King of Prussia armed with a knife to Brandau’s home in Schuylkill that she shared with her children, a 7-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy. The family was outside the home in the 300 block of Bowling Road when he pulled over in his car and began arguing with Brandao.
At some point, he grabbed her by the hair, threw her to the ground, and began stabbing her repeatedly. There were 37 individual injuries to her stomach, chest and throat, and she died looking at her son, who was huddled in the arms of a neighbor who had come to help.
Brandao’s daughter had fled the scene of the accident to a neighbor’s apartment, where she shouted: “Help me! Help me!” Help me! Help me! He’ll kill my mother!”
Brandao, 33, also a Brazilian citizen, was pronounced dead at Paoli Hospital, according to a criminal complaint filed by Chester County Detective David Nieves and Schuylkill Officer Chris Aquilante. Cavalcanti fled the scene in a car, and was arrested the next day in Virginia after getting help from two friends who testified in the case.
Thursday’s morning flight through the heart of the initial search effort in Pocopson and East Marlboro appeared to be an aerial symbol of the cloud that lifted after Cavalcanti was returned to custody. The sky was blue, the air was cool, and the uncomfortable heat and oppressive humidity had disappeared overnight.
Other details explained Ryan’s announcement of a return to normal life. The parking lot at Bow Mar Lane Fire Station was empty of news trucks, and fire engines returned to the inner bays. The farm store at Billy’s dairy farm, where Cavalcanti was lucky enough to find the keys in the delivery truck he stole and drove north, was open for business, coolers of milk and crates of fresh tomatoes for sale.
“It’s definitely convenient,” said a woman who had stopped by the farm to buy some produce.
Over the hill on Huntsman Lane, two women were returning from a morning walk when a reporter stopped them. They said their sense of security had returned.
“I can let the dogs out at night,” said one of them. “I fixed my home alarm and made all the new keys.”
“We could have walked right by it,” they agreed. “We said it was probably in Longwood Gardens, and it was probably right next door to us.”
A visitor at Longwood Gardens, whose parking lot was full Thursday after it was intermittently closed to the public during the search, said when he was spotted on his property he returned after staying away, “to show my support for the staff.” “.
“It’s a lucky day,” said Paul Daniels from Telford. “Just to get a sense of closure about the whole thing. I can’t imagine what it must have been like.”
To contact staff writer Michael B. Relahan call 610-696-1544.