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Chester County Prison Escapee Cavalcante Faces New Charges

Danelo Cavalcante, whose two-week escape from Chester County Prison had county residents on high alert, faces more charges related to his time on the lam.

Attorney General Michelle Henry announced several new charges against Cavalcante, a Chester County Prison inmate who escaped from prison on August 31. The charges, filed by the Pennsylvania State Police, regard Cavalcante’s activities during the two weeks he was on the run from authorities. The Office of the Attorney General will prosecute the case.

Investigators allege that Cavalcante stole items to help him change his appearance, a getaway vehicle, and a rifle with ammunition. Members of the state and local police, county detectives, the U.S. Border Patrol, and other law enforcement officers sought Cavalcante day and night until he was captured on Sept. 12.  A Border Patrol K-9 named Yoda clamped down on the fugitive as law enforcement closed in.

Cavalcante, 34, was serving a life sentence in prison for the brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend and awaiting transfer to a state prison when he escaped from Chester County Prison. He had also faced murder charges in his native Brazil, officials said.

According to the new charges, he burglarized two homes in Pennsbury and South Coventry townships, stealing the firearm, clothing, and a shaving razor. He is charged with stealing a Ford transit van from a dairy in Pocopson Township.

Residents were outraged after learning that another prisoner used the same method of crab-walking up two walls to a roof to escape the prison in May.  Under the leadership of acting Warden Howard Holland, the prison is stepping up security measures and will be enclosing the exercise areas to prevent further escapes.

And, although some of the Chester County Republican candidates seized upon the escape to question their Democratic counterparts’ competence, that failed to secure election wins in November.

“The defendant used all means necessary to escape from prison and stay hidden from authorities. These offenses aided his efforts and elevated his threat to the public,” said Henry. “Thanks to the diligent efforts of law enforcement, Cavalcante is in custody and will be prosecuted for all of his crimes. My office is committed to keeping Pennsylvanians safe and holding those accountable who jeopardize the public’s well-being.”

On Monday, officials charged Cavalcante with 20 offenses, including felony counts of burglary, criminal trespassing, theft, and possession of a firearm. He is expected to be arraigned on the new charges on Friday.

“The new charges against Cavalcante speak to the lengths he went to in his unsuccessful efforts to elude law enforcement,” said Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens, Pennsylvania State Police Deputy Commissioner of Operations. “We appreciate the Office of Attorney General’s work in prosecuting the case and remain thankful to the residents of Chester County for their support during the search and to our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners for their assistance.”

District Attorney Deb Ryan ssaid, “The defendant caused a nightmare for the residents in this county, and he must be held accountable for his actions. Hundreds of law enforcement officers worked around the clock to ensure his capture and they were successful because of their hard work and dedication. The greatest outcome here was that no one was injured, and the police did an outstanding job keeping us safe. My office got justice for the Brandao family after Deborah’s murder and the Attorney General’s Office will get justice for the other residents he victimized.

All charges are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty, officials said. Senior Deputy Attorney General Christopher Phillips is prosecuting this case.

Cavalcante is being held at State Corrections Institute Phoenix in Skippack.

After Hero Dog Captures Fugitive, Critics Blast ChesCo Sheriff’s Office Near Defunct K-9 Program

A police dog from Texas, ended a two-week manhunt for convicted killer Danelo Cavalcante in minutes. That fact sparked outrage among residents who believe the search would’ve ended much sooner if local officials hadn’t “gutted” what was once an esteemed K-9 program at the Chester County Sheriff’s Office.

At a town hall meeting, Howard Holland, acting warden at Chester County Prison, said, “‘If we had dogs, we would have gotten him that day.’”

Republicans are blaming Sheriff Fredda Maddox for the dearth of dogs available to search for the escaped killer and the extensive and expensive manhunt that ensued and kept county residents on edge.

However, Maddox told DVJournal that she inherited six police dogs from her predecessor Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh but the program has been cut in half due to a mixture of death and injuries to the police dogs. She also cited a nationwide shortage of police dog trainers that she says has made it harder for the department to train and replace police dog handlers, especially following the abrupt departure of her K-9 team supervisor who was forced to retire early because of an injury.

The issue came up during a recent prison board meeting as officials discussed improvements that they say will increase the security at the Chester County prison where Cavalcante escaped. The prison board approved a plan that’ll fully enclose exercise yards after video showed Cavalcante crab-walking up two prison walls during recreation time onto the roof. He then pushed past razor wire and evaded a corrections officer who was sitting watch in a tower, eluding authorities for weeks in the dense woodlands of Pennsylvania.

Authorities deployed hundreds of officers, including two dozen CCSO law enforcement officers, helicopters and infrared technology to aid the search.

Despite all the high-end gadgets, in the end it was a “hero” police dog named Yoda from a Border Patrol tactical team out of El Paso, Texas, that captured Cavalcante in five minutes after teams converged on a wooded area behind a tractor trailer store in South Coventry Township, where a DEA aircraft picked up the prisoner’s heat signal.

The prison renovations will cost upwards of $3 million and take several months to complete. Yet that won’t make Sally Mininger of Tredyffrin Township feel safer.

She lamented how the search could’ve ended sooner if the CCSO still had a more robust police dog presence, possibly saving Pennsylvania “millions of dollars.”

“If we had had appropriate security, staffing, and upkeep at the prison, plus oversight of this by the prison board, perhaps this renovation wouldn’t be needed,” she said.

Beyond CCSO’s once “award-winning” police dog unit, Mininger tells DVJ that the prison also had its own K-9 program that “consisted of run dogs who were housed between two fences surrounding the prison.” Any prisoners who tried escaping found themselves in a dog run where they were quickly subdued and apprehended, she says, but that program was disbanded in 1986.

Roy Kofroth, a former CCSO deputy sheriff who is running to replace Maddox, said that the CCSO K-9 program once consisted of as many as 12 police dogs. He says the program – and the sheriff’s office in general – has been diminished because of “inept” leadership, citing dozens of staffing vacancies. Some veterans left because of poor morale, he tells DVJournal.

When asked about the K-9 unit’s struggles, he redirected blame to Maddox.

“That is a question for the person that decimated it,” he said. “I don’t know his thought process.”

Maddox, a Democrat who sits on the prison board and is running for judge in the fall,   claims her department has worked quickly to replace the police dogs that it lost.

Last year, a police dog named Maddie was forced to retire because of hip dysplasia, Maddox says, while another K-9, Don, died. The department also had some police dogs and handlers transfer to other facilities.

In spring 2022, Sgt. Paul Bryant, who oversaw the sheriff’s K-9 team, injured himself and couldn’t train new personnel “for an extensive period of time,” Maddox says. He retired at the end of last year, Maddox said. It’s unclear whether he’s been replaced

Maddox says that the K-9 unit isn’t directly funded by the county and instead receives most of its money through private donations. The unit’s overall budget is less than $11,000, or less than even 4 percent of the department $7 million spending plan. The unit also receives “in-kind sponsorship” from the community that helps cover costs for vet bills, food and bulletproof vests.

While she understands the desire to improve CCSO’s police dog program, Maddox says the unit’s funding is staying flat in 2024.

Without more support, the unit can’t grow.

“It takes experienced, qualified and committed sworn personnel for handlers and trainers, as well as time for dogs and handlers to go through extensive training together,” Maddox says. “We would like to expand the K-9 Unit. … Dogs are a valuable aid for all law enforcement because they have enhanced skills that complement law enforcement personnel’s abilities. That is why we ensure that K-9s and handlers are certified, train on an ongoing basis, receive great care and have been part of the CCSO for a long enough time to fully understand the complexities of the work undertaken here.”

Welsh, the former sheriff, doesn’t buy Maddox’s excuses.

“When I left we had eight K-9s in service,” said Welsh. “All German Shepherds except one Belgium Malinois.” A ninth dog was a courthouse comfort dog. The dogs were trained in scent detecting for bombs, drugs, human remains and people, she said.

“When this Cavalcante character went over the wall, my position is, if we had these dogs engaged before (the trail) was contaminated, because he was on foot, we could have had this guy in a day, even in the sweltering heat. We didn’t have the dogs. The unit was decimated. They were down to two (dogs). Even with six dogs, they could have gotten him.”

While dogs age or die, they can be replaced, she said.  Maddox “can make all the excuses she wants. She did not support the K-9 unit. She did not support the fugitive apprehension unit.  A lot of resources were available.”

“The bottom line is the canine program was never supported or encouraged under her leadership,” said Welsh.

Under Welsh the sheriff’s office also had a fugitive apprehension unit, which is also gone. And some 40 deputies have left the office and the courthouse is reportedly using private security.

Former Deputy Matt Mandenhall posted on social media that he had handled Nero in the K-9 unit. Maddox and her second in command, Kevin Dykes, who is now running for sheriff, took Nero away from him and refused to allow him to take to dog home to say good-bye to his family. Police dogs often stay with their handlers and bond with their families.

“My family was and is still devastated,” Mandenhall wrote.

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Chesco GOP Decries Democrat Officials’ Incompetence in Wake of Prisoner Escape

Candidates and members of the Chester County GOP held a rally on the steps of the old courthouse Wednesday in the wake of the escape of murderer Danelo Cavalcante.

Cavalcante, who was wanted for murder in his native Brazil, brutally stabbed his girlfriend to death in front of her children. A  jury convicted him, and a judge sentenced him to life in prison in August.

While he was being held at the Chester County Prison awaiting transfer to a state prison, on Aug. 31, Cavalcante “crab-walked” up two walls in a narrow corridor to the jail’s roof and made his way off the premises to freedom.

Another inmate used that approach in May, escaping too, but was quickly recaptured.

Also, on Wednesday, the county Prison Board, which includes the county commissioners, sheriff, and district attorney, held a meeting and voted on renovations to the jail, including walls to enclose the exercise yards.

The Republicans promised if the voters elect them, they would do better than the Democrats, who now hold all the county row offices except one commissioner’s seat reserved for the minority party. They all praised the efforts of law enforcement officials who tracked Cavalcante down.

“The world is watching. In my hands is an article from The Washington Post that details how our detractors reveled in our chaos since Cavalcante escaped and made this monster of a man into a cult hero,” said Eric Roe, a former state representative running for county commissioner. “All because our county’s leaders failed to keep him locked up in prison.”

Roe recounted how “men and women stayed awake at night, keeping watch over their home while their spouses and children slept. I was struck by the number of people who listened out their windows for the sound of rustling leaves and footsteps and the sight of flashlights in nearby woods.”

Chester County GOP candidates (left to right) Ryan Hyde, Eric Roe, David Sommers, and Roy Kofroth

“People move here and choose to remain here because safety, until recently, has been at the core of the Chester County experience. But all that changed on Aug. 31. We have to get that back. As your county commissioner, I’ll see to it that we do get that back. Chester County is watching.”

Commissioner candidate Dave Sommers, a teacher, said, “The primary role for any government is the safety and wellbeing of its residents. Chester County Commissioners are responsible for ensuring the safety for our communities as outlined in the Prison  Mission Statement. However, the safety of Chester County was placed in jeopardy.”

“What more evidence need we provide that local and municipal elections matter?” asked Sommers. “Your daily life, for good or bad, is greatly affected by those you entrust to hold public office.   Motivation to vote has become very clear over the past three weeks. Chester County deserves better from its elected officials.”

Roy Kofroth, a former Chester County sheriff’s deputy now running for sheriff, said he had been a deputy under the previous sheriff and the current sheriff, as well as a small business owner.

“Just four years ago, our Sheriff’s Office had approximately 60 working deputies, the ones that you see protecting our buildings, in the courtrooms, transporting prisoners, among other jobs. We now have around 17-18. That means the office is running at one-third capacity.

“We had eight award-winning dogs; that is one-quarter of what we used to have. We had a fugitive apprehension team. That’s gone…The Sheriff’s Office is so unprepared it it was only a matter of time before something would happen.

In the words of Chester County Prison Warden Howard Holland on Monday, ‘If we had dogs, we would have gotten him that day.’”

Ryan Hyde, a lawyer running for district attorney, said, “Three weeks ago, most of us can say our bubble was shattered. The idea of public safety became a punch line for people. I heard on the news he was within two and a half miles from my house. I didn’t sleep that night. An armed and dangerous felon was in the towns within Chester County.”

People tell Hyde they never locked the doors on their homes and cars, but now they do. And they’re noticing more crime.

“Two men, two nights ago, took hammers and broke into a kids’ toy shop to steal Pokemon cards. Last night in West Chester, a man wrestled with two police officers.

“The time where we say that doesn’t happen in Chester County is long gone. Part of it is because of what I like to call erosion,” he said. “We learned to take a little bit more each time. We learned to accept a little bit more.”

“My opponent came out with an ad that says he ‘thinks about public safety.’ All of us think about public safety. All of us do. All of us want to walk out in our yard and be safe. And all of us want to know if someone does break into their house, not only will they be captured, but they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That’s what we need…We want to go to a world where the police and District Attorney are responsive,” said Hyde.

He promised to bring law and order back to the county if elected.

Chester County GOP Chairman Raffi Terzian led the group of about 25 supporters in a chant, “Chester County deserves better.”

As for their Democratic opposition in the wake of the Cavalcante escape, Terzian said, “Now these elected officials are asking us to re-elect them or promote them to a judicial position. I say Chester County deserves better. This episode exposed a series of systemic problems and failures.”

“We deserve highly competent leadership who puts the interests of its citizens first, who prioritizes safety and security, who act with transparency as the bottom line. We cannot trust those who created the problem to fix it. It is time for a change.”

In contrast, Chester County Democratic Chair Charlotte Valyo praised the Democrat officials after Cavalcante was captured.

“We can be proud of our elected officials who remained calm and continued to do their jobs under the duress of public scrutiny and criticism,” Valyo said. “Now they are free to share the actions and plans being implemented to ensure this situation does not happen again. Our elected officials have governed well through every crisis presented to them, and they will continue to make the decisions that are best for all of Chester County.”

Angry Residents Confront ChesCo Prison Board Over Cavalcante Escape

Looking glum as they sat at the dais, the Chester County Prison Board members got an earful from enraged residents on Wednesday, angry over convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante’s escape from the county prison and the manhunt that stretched over two weeks until law enforcement caught him.

Although the board voted to immediately enclose two areas, including the one where Cavalcante escaped by crab-walking up a wall to the roof and a similar site in another section, and also to wall in all the exercise yards, many in the crowd of 100 or so people were not mollified.

Another prisoner used a similar method to escape in May.

“I’m livid,” said Sheila Lerner of Westtown Township. “You had one job to do, to ensure the safety and to manage the prison properly. Maybe this is not the job for you.”

A man who lives in West Marlborough Township, two miles from the prison, said, “For all those kids, for all those parents, we can never unsee what we saw.”

He also thanked law enforcement and Commissioner Chair Josh Maxwell, who said he was sorry and acknowledged mistakes were made.

“I watched this board ratify two proposals without budgets and without the objectivity or the experts,” the resident said. “We need to bring people in who have that objectivity. I’m going to ask you guys to form a committee that does an investigation that does reach out to experts. I saw the governor offer his entire staff of the Correctional Department. That’s probably the way to go.”

Acting Warden Howard Holland

Acting Warden Howard Holland, who was appointed just one day before Cavalcante’s escape, gave a long list of suggestions, including at least 50 more cameras and eight more people to man them 24 hours; ankle bracelets; color-coded uniforms based on the severity of prisoners’ charges; at least two officers monitoring the exercise yards; and alarm systems around the perimeter of the prison. He would also like to see the prison’s search dog program started again.

Holland said he has already taken steps to prevent the path of escape Cavalcante and the previous prisoner used.

Sally Mininger of Tredyffrin Township refused to give the current county government any credit for Cavalcante’s capture. “We all know it was Yoda, the scent dog, who was the hero,” she said. “The prisoner was able to steal a vehicle and travel some distance, so any one of our communities could have been affected.”

Guy Ciarrocchi, a former deputy attorney general who ran for Congress, spoke passionately about what he saw as the board’s failure. “Allow me to cut to the chase: You failed us. You failed us in your duties to protect us, to keep the bad guys away from the good guys.

“My comments aren’t personal. I’m disappointed to come here with so many citizens to point out the obvious. Our comments are not directed at law enforcement. I’m eternally grateful to the men and women who went into the woods in the heat to find him,” Ciarrocchi said.

But, Ciarrocchi continued, the behavior of political figures like Sheriff Maddox and District Attorney Deb Ryan, who both sit on the Prison Board, was problematic.

“If something like this happens again, do you promise not to hold political fundraisers while citizens are asked to be sheltering in place?” Ciarrocchi said. “I hope that the citizens of Chester County, that we’ve learned our lesson.”

Maddox and Ryan are both running for judgeships on the Court of Common Pleas.

A group of architects from TransSystems LLC presented “high-level” drawings of plans to enclose the exercise yards and permanently secure those problem areas, which the board approved. They gave a cost estimate of $2.5 to 3.5 million to enclose all eight exercise yards. The work might take six to nine months, depending on the availability of materials.

Several citizens suggested the solution was simply to reject high-risk prisoners like Cavalcante.

“Will you refuse to accept murderers and rapists until the prison is fully staffed and secured? And if you’re forced to take them, will you guard them 24/7?” Ciarrocchi asked. “Deny them outdoor exercise? What are you going to do about the staffing shortage emergency? What are the steps you’re taking? Are you reaching out to the FOP, retired military, or retired correctional officers? Have you talked to private security firms? Are you treating it like an emergency?”

“I hope that the citizens of Chester County, that we’ve learned our lesson,” Ciarrocchi added.

County Administrator  Robert Kagel said federal American Rescue Plan dollars could be used to fund the project. The Prison Board will meet again on Sept. 26 at the prison, and residents can watch via Zoom.

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Chesco Commissioners Hold Public Town Hall, But Tell Press to Stay Away

Editor’s note: The Sept. 20 Prison Board meeting was moved from the prison to the Commissioner’s Public Meeting Room, 6th Floor, 313 West Market Street, West Chester.  The time remains 2:30 p.m.

The public is demanding answers from Chester County officials in the wake of Danelo Cavalcante’s escape from the county prison, and county commissioners have scheduled two town hall meetings on Sept. 18 and 20 to answer them.

But not in front of the press.

“We respectfully request that no media reporting, recording, or questioning take place during the Town Hall meetings (inside the building) so that we can respect the privacy of residents who are attending,” said Chester County Public Information Officer Rebecca Brain, speaking on behalf of the Chester County Commissioners.

It is a request that has some residents asking more tough questions about the county’s leadership.

“When I was a state representative, I held 15 town halls,” said Eric Roe, a Republican running for county commissioner. “The press was invited to attend each of them and ask me questions. Accountability is something to embrace – not to run from. The voters appreciate it when their elected officials stand up and give an account for what they’ve done and what they’ll do.”

Roe also raised the issue of the U.S. Constitution and the role of a free press.

“I would also argue that members of the press have a First Amendment right to attend a public forum like this. I’ve been to hundreds of public forums and town halls, and having the press in attendance has never stifled public comment.”

Guy Ciarrocchi, a former deputy attorney general who ran for Congress, said, “It is, sadly, no surprise that the Democrat majority commissioners have closed the town halls to the press—and prohibited filming. It’s another anti-democratic step against transparency.

“That decision comes after this month’s Prison Board meeting was scheduled to take place at the prison rather than the courthouse,” Ciarrocchi added. “The party that doesn’t agree to candidate debates held meetings on Zoom long after the COVID’ crisis,’ often requires citizens to pre-register for town halls, and has armed officers present is clearly continuing an alarming pattern of keeping citizens in the dark and making themselves unaccountable. I hope citizens demand changes, demand better, or remove those politicians who don’t want to be accountable.”

Cavalcante, a convicted murderer, escaped from the jail on August 31 using a method another inmate had used in May. The fact the same escape route was used twice has raised citizen’s ire over how the prison is being run. Although more razor wire was added, Cavalcante, who was also wanted for a separate murder in his home country of Brazil, was able to pass through it to freedom after crab-walking up to a roof.

“Imagine if a convicted murderer who entered our country illegally were in Chester County Prison awaiting transfer to a state institution and had not been allowed in a minimum-security exercise yard to exercise with other prisoners; or if he had been allowed this privilege, he had exercised alone and been heavily guarded while doing so,” said resident Sally Mininger at the September 14 county commissioners’ meeting.

“Imagine if Howard Holland, appointed by (Commissioners Chairman) Josh Maxwell as acting prison warden the day before the escape, had done his job. And imagine if we could take the money spent on this search to compensate the guards at the prison and perhaps even hire more.

“And furthermore, imagine if we were not a sanctuary county, the definition of which has been turned around to protect criminals from being deported, instead of the original intent to protect illegals reporting a crime. This effectively makes Chester County unsafe,” she said.

“Would we be concerned that while we remain a sanctuary county, and if nothing in our county changes, this same thing may happen again? Would I be here today standing at this podium?”

Bobbie Surrick, another resident, said the 14-day “mess’ was created by “bureaucratic incompetence.”

“Under the watch of the district attorney, sheriff, and prison board, a two-time murderer and an illegal, sentenced to life, was housed in the Chester County facility in Pocopson meant for criminals with sentences of 5 years or less, as I understand,” said Surrick. “Everyone in positions of responsibility who created the environment that allowed this escape and the ensuing bungling should be held to account. As of now, the fired guard in the tower is the fall guy. We need a full investigation.

“The residents of Chester County, your constituents who have been living in fear and being inconvenienced, deserve better. Let’s begin with accountability,” Surrick added.

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Chester County Readers React to Cavalcante’s Escape, Capture

Now that escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante is back in custody, DVJournal asked readers for their thoughts.

Cavalcante was on the loose for two weeks after escaping from Chester County Prison in an identical way that another inmate used in May. Cavalcante, who is 5-foot tall, was able to crab-walk up a narrow passageway to access the roof, then jumped to another roof in a less secure section of the jail, pushed through razor wire, and was free.

While on the lam, Cavalcante stole a van and drove to northern Chester County. He contacted friends to get help and stole items, including a rifle.

More than 500 state, local, and federal officers, including air assets, high-tech equipment, horses, and K-9 officers, participated in the search. A Belgian Malinois finally apprehended Cavalcante as members of state and federal task forces closed in on him.

No civilians or law enforcement officers were injured.

“Thanks to all those who worked tirelessly to bring this search to an end. As for the escape, it’s time for a professional ‘debrief’ and analysis of systems to improve procedures, and that should be done in a nonpartisan fashion and not done to try to score cheap political points,” said Rich Heiland.

Eileen Potts Smith said, “My thoughts go to the officers who stood in the heat, climbed through the woods, dealt with bugs, went hungry, dealt with rain, and managed to catch him with not a shot fired. Hope they are given a well-deserved break. Great job, officers!”

Joyce Erbenich Starr said, “He should never have been here in the first place.”

And Kryssa Renninger Brasch said, “My thoughts go gratefully to the dog who subdued him! That K-9 unit deserves any reward money to spend on the care and training of those dogs!”

“The first day, I was worried if this would end up with another murder,” said Anita Edgarian. “Frankly, I am surprised how he didn’t hurt anyone to get inside a home to change appearance, steal a car, etc. He could have easily done so and got away the very first hour or two.

“I didn’t leave the kids at home by themselves and just checked the doors and basement windows,” she added.

“Mostly, people are mad at the leadership, and so am I,” Edgarian said. “Why is he here? Why wasn’t he deported? What is going on with the current DA’s Office and Sheriff’s Office?

“Apparently, both offices are a mess under Democrats, and people want accountability,” she said. “They are worried about their campaigns while dangerous escapee runs around. Were these offices just a stepping stone for a judge position?”

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UPDATE: Escaped Convict Cavalcante Caught in Northern Chester County

After a 14-day manhunt, specialized tactical teams from the Pennsylvania State Police and U.S. Border Patrol converged on fugitive murderer Danelo Cavalcante just after 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Cavalcante was lying prone in tall grass on top of the rifle he had stolen Monday evening, state police Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a press conference. The tactical teams were able to sneak up on him, but when he realized they were there, Cavalcante tried to crawl away “through thick underbrush, taking his rifle with him as he went.”

“They had the element of surprise,” said Bivens.

A K-9 officer “subdued him,” said Bivens. “He continued to resist…He did sustain a minor bite wound.”

After being interviewed, Cavalcante, who was wearing a stolen Eagles shirt when caught, was taken to a state prison and not returned to the Chester County Prison, where he escaped on Aug. 31. He had crab-walked in a narrow corridor up two walls to a roof, jumped to another roof, then pushed through razor wire to freedom. Cavalcante’s method mirrored the escape of another prisoner in May. That prisoner was caught within minutes because a tower guard saw him. Officials fired the tower guard on duty when Cavalcante escaped.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) announced it had taken custody of Cavalcante as of 3 p.m. Wednesday and he is being housed at SCI Phoenix, a maximum-security prison in Montgomery County.

During his travels, Cavalcante stole various items of clothing he happened upon and also a van from a dairy that he drove about 20 miles from the southern part of the county to the northern section.

Bivens said a burglar alarm went off at a residence near Prizer Road in Pottstown, within the search perimeter. Police went to the house and found no one but decided to stay in that area. Then, a plane circling over the search area found a moving heat signature near 1 a.m. north of Prizer Road. But the thunderstorm that passed through the lightning grounded the plane. They secured that smaller area until additional men and equipment were brought in.

Bivens praised all the law enforcement officials—more than 500—who took part in the search. Cavalcante will now begin serving his life sentence.

“Our nightmare is finally over, and the good guys won,” Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to all of the first responders for their tireless and dedicated efforts in bringing this fugitive to justice.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro opened the press conference by thanking law enforcement officials who searched for Cavalcante and ultimately captured him. He also praised Chester County residents.

The officers “leave their homes, leave their loved ones to keep us safe,” said Shapiro. “The public has had a chance to see what excellence in law enforcement means, what true, dedicated professionalism is all about.” No one in the public or law enforcement was injured, he said.

Resident Guy Ciarrocchi, a former Deputy Attorney General who has been critical of how authorities managed the Chester County Prison, said, “I join the residents of Chesco in thanking the men and women of law enforcement for their vigilance. Now, first, under no circumstances should he go back to the Chester County Jail. Second, we need a thorough review of how he escaped, prison staffing and policies, and making sure this never happens again. Third, the politicians on the prison board should not be reelected and certainly not elected to become soft-on-crime judges for life.”

Another resident, Ada Nestor, said, “In the near future, we will need to do a very deep postmortem on how this was allowed to happen, which policies permitted this situation to arise, and make decisions to ensure our community is safe in the future.

“Chester County, Pennsylvania, has been recognized over many years for being a beautiful, safe community. One with low crime, great schools, and beautiful wildlife mixed with suburban living. This incident has put Chester County on the map, but not in a good way. Our county Officials should be ashamed of the embarrassment we have become,” Nestor said.

The county commissioners, however, thanked law enforcement, residents, and school districts.

“Prison officials have made some immediate changes to bolster security in the prison, have brought in security contractors to make permanent changes to the exercise yards, and are reviewing and – where needed – changing procedures for both security measures and communication to residents who live close to the prison,” they said in a statement.

Charlotte Valyo, chair of the Chester County Democrats, said, “We can be proud of our elected officials who remained calm and continued to do their jobs under the duress of public scrutiny and criticism. Now, they are free to share the actions and plans being implemented to ensure this situation does not happen again. Our elected officials have governed well through every crisis presented to them, and they will continue to make the decisions that are best for all of Chester County.”

The Chester County Prison Board, which includes the county commissioners, district attorney, and sheriff, is set to meet at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 20. It will meet at the prison rather than the Government Services Center.

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BREAKING: Escaped Chester County Convict Caught

Note: This article will be updated.

Escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante is now not just dangerous but also armed.

Cavalcante, the convicted murderer who escaped from Chester County prison on August 31, went into an open garage Monday, took a rifle, and encountered the homeowner, State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said during a Tuesday morning press conference. The homeowner fired some shots from a few feet away. Cavalcante took off and was apparently uninjured, Bivens said.

“He’s extremely dangerous,” said Bivens. “He’s now armed with a .22-caliber rifle with a scope and flashlight mounted on it.”

“We consider him desperate. We consider him dangerous. All this does is confirm for us he has a weapon,” said Bivens. “He’s killed two people previously. I would consider he’s desperate enough to use that weapon.”

“It was a crime of opportunity,” Bivens said. “He went in there to hide. The garage door was open. He did not recognize the owner was in there. He was probably looking for a hiding place and ran through that garage. Saw the firearm, grabbed that, encountered the homeowner, and fled with the firearm.”

Cavalcante has been evading capture — and making headlines — for nearly two weeks. He crab-walked up between two prison walls, onto a roof, and pushed through razor wire to freedom. Another inmate used the same method to escape in May but was captured quickly because a tower guard saw him. Officials fired the guard who failed to see Cavalcante’s exit.

Over the weekend, the escaped murderer stole a van from a dairy and traveled some 20 miles until it ran out of gas. He has also approached people trying to get help, officials said.

As of Tuesday morning, searchers are focused on an eight to 10-mile area of Coventry and East Nantmeal townships. The police sent reverse 911 messages to people in the area and also notified schools. The Owen J. Roberts School District closed its schools. In Pottstown, students were being kept indoors on Tuesday.

“The current perimeter includes PA (Route) 23 to the north, PA (Route) 100 to the east, Fairview and Nantmeal roads to the south, and Iron Bridge and County Park Roads to the west,” said Bivens. About 500 officers from various agencies are searching for Cavalcante, dogs, and equipment.

Danelo Cavalcante is now clean-shaven.

Bivens asked nearby residents to secure their homes, vehicles, and outbuildings.

Answering questions from reporters, Bivens said he does not believe Cavalcante was injured when the homeowner shot at him, although the owner fired several shots.

“I think he’s just trying to survive and avoid being captured right now,” said Bivens.

“We’re not evacuating homes at this point,” said Bivens. “We’re asking residents to be vigilant and lock their doors.”

The area is hilly and wooded, he said. There are streams, tunnels, and ditches.

“He is in that perimeter, and we will actively hunt until we find him,” said Bivens.

The search area is three miles east to west, two miles north to south, and is about eight to 10 square miles.

“No perimeter is ever 100 percent impenetrable. We have stood up a very strong perimeter. We will do our very best to contain him in there and capture him,” said Bivens. “We will continue until we locate him.”

“We’ve been utilizing tactical teams. Just because we’ve found a footprint doesn’t necessarily mean we know what direction he traveled in. He had traveled south and then went back north,” he said.

Bivens said he has been in “regular communication” with Gov. Josh Shapiro’s office.

“The governor has been closely monitoring this situation. He has offered any necessary resources. ”

Guy Ciarrocchi, former Deputy Attorney General and a Chester County resident, said, “Day 13. For residents of Coventry, Nantmeal, the students, and families in Owen J. Roberts Schools, this isn’t just another news story; it’s real life. An armed double-murderer is on the loose and will do anything to survive. We continue to ask without answers: How did this happen, just months after it did before? Why wasn’t the public notified as soon as possible? Why did a short-staffed prison accept a murderer? Why weren’t more K-9s available? Why weren’t the state police and U.S. Marshals called in for almost a week? This is a tragedy. I pray it ends before anyone else is harmed, or worse.”

Bivens defended the search efforts.

“Our law enforcement people have done an amazing job, tracking and locating him. That proverbial needle in the haystack, and they’ve located that needle repeatedly. People have done an amazing job. I’m very proud of the work they’ve done and continue to do. There is nothing gone wrong. Our agencies are all working very well together, and I believe we will be successful in the long run.”

“We’re making every effort to find him as rapidly as we possibly can,” Bivens added.

“It is imperative that anyone with information about Cavalcante contact us immediately so we can act on it in a timely manner,” said Bivens. They can call 911 or the tipline: (717) 562-2987. There is now a $25,000 reward.

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FLOWERS: Relatives Have a Duty to Report a Dangerous Criminal

When Ted Kaczynski’s younger brother David first suspected that his idolized sibling was the infamous Unabomber, a man who had terrorized the country for almost two decades, he refused to believe it.

In an interview recorded after the elder Kaczynski was arrested in 1995, based in large part upon his brother’s reluctant assistance, he stated, “I recall waking up some mornings and thinking that I knew, one way or the other. I mean, one morning, I would wake up and say to myself, ‘You know, this can’t be, you know, there’s 280 million people in our country; what are the chances that Ted could be the guilty party here? Very small. I’m projecting my fears. I’ve been worried about my brother.’”

Ultimately, though, he couldn’t deny the fact that, as he said, “the truth is staring you in the face.” And when that happened, he went to law enforcement and gave them the information that they needed to arrest his brother, a man who had eluded them for 17 years.

I thought of David Kaczynski when I read of the recent arrest of Danelo Cavalcante’s sister. This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it had detained Eleni Cavalcante for “immigration issues” and declined to comment on whether it had anything to do with her brother’s escape. Still, it’s not a stretch to think that the only reason that ICE is focused on her now, assuming she has had these “immigration issues” for a while, is that she is a family member of a convicted murderer who, until this morning, was playing a high stakes game of hide and seek with the Pennsylvania State Police.

Ted Kaczynski, the Unibomber (FBI archives) 

While many people reached out to ask me about the immigration aspect of the case, given that I’m an immigration attorney who started practicing in the field the same year that Ted Kaczynski was arrested, I have to be honest that other than disgust at her actions, I don’t have very much information about why she is a person of interest with ICE.

I tweeted this when I heard that she had been taken into custody: “What a monster, this Brazilian sister of Danelo Cavalcante. She refuses to assist authorities in apprehending her killer brother and has the arrogance to do that while violating her visa status. This woman is evil and has no place in any civilized society, including our own.”

I wasn’t in the business of mincing words. We know she has refused to cooperate with authorities because that’s what they’ve said publicly. We know she has visa issues because she’s detained by ICE. Beyond that, there isn’t much clarification.

But my focus is on the fact that a person who very likely has some information about where her brother is located, or at the very least knows people who have that information, has remained silent.

We are not talking about a benign Robin Hood of the Brandywine Valley. We are not talking about someone who committed vandalism. We are dealing with a man who murdered a young mother in front of her children after having previously escaped from Brazil on suspicion of having murdered someone else in his native country. For Eleni Cavalcante to simply refuse to help and remain silent as a dangerous killer is on the loose among us is inexcusable.

Some people have taken issue with my position, suggesting that maybe she herself is afraid. I acknowledge that her brother might have very well threatened her, but staying silent and guaranteeing that he will remain free to prey on others is not the way to minimize the personal threat to her or other family members. Having him arrested is in her best interest, so I doubt that fear is the primary motivation here.

Another person suggested what I think is the probable answer, tweeting, “The crime is horrible, not condoning it in any way, but blood is blood.” I find that repellent the idea that because we share DNA, we are obligated to provide protection and support, but it makes sense when you see the thousands of people who refuse to “rat out” a neighbor, let alone a family member.

That is what makes David Kaczynski’s act so heroic. He loved his brother and was devastated by his obligation’s heavy burden, but he chose to place society’s welfare over his own feelings.

Unlike Danelo Cavalcante’s reprehensible sister.

Police Report A Possible Calvalcante Sighting Near Longwood Gardens

Chester County residents remained on high alert for another day as escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante continued evading capture.

State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens told reporters at a press conference Thursday afternoon someone reported they had seen Cavalcante near Longwood Gardens. Searchers, including officers on horseback, were combing that area.

Earlier this week, cameras along Longwood Gardens trails picked up his image.

The total search area is eight to 10 square miles, said Bivens. It is bounded by Route 926 on the north, Route 100 on the east, Route 52 on the west, and Hillendale Road on the south.

It is not easy territory to comb, but he added, “It’s been a very thorough search.”

“I have every reason to believe he is still within that perimeter. We have had no sightings outside that area, and we have maintained as secure a perimeter as we possibly could.”

Law enforcement officers are out in high temperatures and high humidity, but “I have not heard a single complaint,” he said. Searchers are being provided with fluids at their locations. “Morale is high.”

A jury convicted the 34-year-old of brutally stabbing to death his former girlfriend, and he was sentenced to life in prison. He was being held at the Chester County Prison awaiting transfer to a state prison when he climbed walls in a narrow corridor in a crab-like way, made it to the roof, and escaped on Aug. 31.

A massive manhunt has ensued ever since as state, federal, and local law enforcement have sought Cavalcante, who is also wanted for murder in his native Brazil.

Asked about vigilantes who might search independently, Bivens urged Delaware Valley residents not to take matters into their own hands, saying they run the risk of getting into trouble.

“We’ve chased people for a lot longer than this and ultimately brought them to justice,” said Bivens. “As I’ve said before, we’re not going anywhere. We will eventually capture him. And when we do, he’s going to prison.”

“I believe he’s becoming more desperate. I believe he has always been dangerous, and I’ve said that from the start. He’s already murdered two people. One in Brazil and one here in a very brutal manner.”

“We want to end this as quickly as possible. We’ll throw every available resource at him,” Bivens added.

Bivens was also asked about the earlier manhunts he had been involved with, including for cop-killer Eric Frein and escapee Michael Burnham, as DVJournal reported.

“There are similarities between any situation for a manhunt like this,” said Bivens. “We try to learn something from each of those incidents that we handle, taking from that how to run a smoother operation. Our partners, in many cases, are the same. In fact, some of the people here from the federal agencies are some of the same teams and resources on the Warren County search.

“All of us take lessons learned from it; we adapt those to the different circumstances we find. And there are different challenges with every particular search,” he said.

Asked whether they could use thermal imaging technology because it was so hot, he said, “It does not take that technology out of the game at all.”

District Attorney Deb Ryan said Cavalcante would not return to the Chester County Prison after he is captured but would go directly to a state prison.

“Our primary mission is to get this guy in custody,” said Ryan. “That’s where all our attention is focused at this moment.”

Cavalcante has relatives in the general area, and law enforcement has spoken to them. The family of his victim is under guard, authorities said.

Led by their party chair, some Republicans running for county offices spoke at a press conference on Wednesday, criticizing how the Democratic administration has managed Chester County Prison.

“This episode clearly raises many serious questions about the competence of those elected officials in our county who are charged with protecting us,” Chester County Republican Committee Chairman Raffi Terzian said. “How can a convicted murderer, let alone any prisoner, walk out of prison in broad daylight? And now we are learning that this is the second prison break in the past six months.

“Why was there a delay in notifying the public? Why was a convicted murderer housed in a local facility rather than immediately housed in an appropriate state-secured facility?

“What role does the county’s budget planning and oversight have in this entire episode?” Terzian continued. “Once again, this crisis prompts many questions about policy, resources, funding, and the competence of those running our county government. I’ve just listened to the county press conference, and still, many questions remain – fair and reasonable questions that must be answered. And we hope a thorough investigation will provide clarity.”

Lawyer Ryan Hyde, who is running for district attorney, told DVJournal people should be asking questions and demanding transparency from county officials.

“They are entitled to answers,” he said. “However, right now, hundreds of law enforcement officers and thousands of people are in harm’s way, and my thoughts go out to them because I know they are hurting because of this.   I can’t imagine carrying the gear they are carrying through dense undergrowth in 100-degree heat. I just hope no one gets hurt.”

Sheriff candidate Roy Kofroth said, “At this time, our focus needs to revolve solely around the safety of our community and the apprehension of Danelo Cavalcante. We must give our law enforcement officers and first responders, who are working tirelessly to bring this man to justice, any and all the support needed to successfully bring this fugitive into custody. Please keep all of our community in your thoughts and prayers during this very unfortunate time.”

“The bottom line is our county deserves better,” said Terzian.

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