WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — A murderer made the brazen escape from a suburban Philadelphia jail by scaling a wall, clambering over barbed wire and jumping off a roof. An outbreak ensued, which was not noticed by the guards for a full hour. Authorities said Wednesday as the killer evaded the seventh day of an expanding manhunt.
The timeline and details of Danelo Cavalcante’s escape – including the fact that he escaped by the same route taken by another detainee in May – have been shared with police by various authorities flooded a search zone increasingly concerned residents. A tower guard on duty during the breakout was put on leave as part of the escape investigation.
The escape and search drew international attention and made headlines in Cavalcante’s native Brazil. The main newspaper in Rio de Janeiro published a lengthy article on Wednesday entitled “Dangerous hide-and-seek”.
Howard Holland, the acting warden of Chester County Jail, played security video at a news conference on Wednesday. It shows 34-year-old Cavalcante standing in a passageway adjacent to the prison yard before bracing his hands on one wall and his feet on another and then “crab walking” along the walls out of camera view.
Holland said the prison brought in a consultant after the first escape in May and barbed wire around that area.
“What was perhaps overlooked was the fact that addressing the single point of physical countermeasures should have been strengthened with additional resources. We’re going to do it,” Holland said. He said the prison was full when Cavalcante broke out.
The prison is considering stationing officers in the yard during recovery periods and locking the yards up in cages, Holland said. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has taken over the escape investigation, he said.
Holland said the prisoner who escaped in May was brought back within minutes after a tower guard quickly sounded the alarm. He said Cavalcante was identified as missing after a personnel count, more than an hour after the video was shot. At around 10 a.m., a public siren sounded
Holland would not say why the warden, whose name has not been released, had not noticed Cavalcante hop off the roof and walk away from prison grounds.
Cavalcante received a life sentence last month for killing his ex-girlfriend Deborah Brandao in front of her children in 2021 and escaped while awaiting transfer to state prison. Prosecutors say he killed her to keep her from telling police he was wanted for a 2017 murder in Brazil.
He was captured in Virginia after Brandao’s assassination and authorities believe he was attempting to return to Brazil.
Two school districts in suburban Philadelphia remained closed and one of the country’s most important botanical gardens was closed Wednesday as authorities continued their search.
Cavalcante has been sighted six times since escaping, most recently on Tuesday night when he was seen in a residential area but soon disappeared into the woods. He was spotted Monday night at Longwood Gardens where he was caught on trail surveillance video walking through the garden grounds.
That sighting prompted officers to move the search area farther south on Tuesday after determining that Cavalcante had likely slipped through the original boundary set by hundreds of police officers, including heavily armed police officers.
Authorities urged residents to keep their homes and vehicles locked, to check vacationing neighbors’ belongings and to be on the lookout for missing cars, bicycles or other transportation that Cavalcante might use.
“It’s troubling to know that I can’t stand in my yard with my dogs. My husband has to go outside with me and it’s just an uneasy feeling,” said Danielle Lawrence of Pocopson, which is near the county jail, about 25 miles west of Philadelphia.
Similar views were expressed by Ryan Drummond, whose home in Pocopson, believed to be Cavalcante, was burgled late Friday. He believes Cavalcante entered through French doors whose lock was broken – and may have been nearby when his family discussed the problem as they locked the house that night.
“Right now we’re still living this semi-normal life, which means the kids have no school. “Parents are trying to manage the COVID balance between working and caring for their children,” Drummond said Wednesday.
The intruder left with “a peach, an apple, maybe some sugar snap peas” he found on the kitchen counter, along with a white hat he soon lost while scrambling past a neighbor’s garden, Drummond said.
“Everyone wants this to be over,” said Drummond, who said his frustration isn’t with the search effort, but with the jail. “How can it be almost a week at this point?”
Associated Press correspondent David Biller contributed to this report.