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‘Extremely dangerous’ inmate escapes from Pa. prison

$10,000 reward offered in search for Danelo Susa Cavalcante, who is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder


Cavalcante is also wanted in his native Brazil for the 2017 murder of a man who owed him money.

Chester County District Attorney’s Office via AP

By Michael P. Rellahan
Daily Local News

POCOPSON, Pa. — The Montgomery County man who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison recently for the violent stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend in front of her two young children, escaped from Chester County Prison on Thursday.

No update on whether he has been recaptured has been issued by authorities as of late Thursday afternoon. It appears the former inmate is still at large.

Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan, who led the prosecution against Danelo Susa Cavalcante and secured a guilty verdict in fewer than 20 minutes, confirmed the escape in press statements Thursday. Ryan and other county and state officials appeared at a press conference later in the day but declined to say how Cavalcante — a violent convicted murderer — was able to escape from the prison.

A short and slight man — 5 feet tall and 120 pounds — with bushy hair and an unshaven face, Cavalcante was last seen around 9:40 a.m. walking on Pocopson Road — a wooded area with secluded homes near the prison. He was wearing a white T-shirt, gray prison-issued shorts, and white sneakers. Ryan said the escape occurred around 8:50 a.m.

Notification of the escape was communicated on Thursday morning to all residents within a six-mile radius of the prison, located just south of West Chester near Longwood Gardens and the county Pocopson Home, officials said, although that could not be immediately confirmed.

Chester County Detectives and the Pennsylvania State Police were said to be conducting a thorough county-wide search, and prison officials were reported to be conducting an internal investigation of the escape. A search of the prison and surrounding area was also being conducted, officials said.

Wanted in his native Brazil for the 2017 murder of a man who owed him money, Cavalcante, a former street gang member, “is extremely dangerous,” said Ryan in an interview with the Media News Group. She cautioned anyone who might encounter him not to approach him but to call 9-1-1 and report his location.

The county issued an emergency warning on the internet about the escape around 12:10 p.m., and also cautioned anyone seeing him not to approach. Ryan, at a press conference Thursday afternoon, said the family of the victim had been notified and was safe. She also said members of Cavalcante’s family had been contacted about the matter.

Authorities, including those from the prison, said they could not release information at the present time about how Cavalcante might have escaped. He was being held at the facility after his sentencing for 30 days so he could converse with his attorneys about whether he would file an appeal of his conviction before being transferred to the state prison system. He had been held there without bail since his arrest in 2021.

It is the first escape from the 700-inmate correctional facility run by the county by such a notorious convict in decades. The last high-profile escape occurred in the 1990s when an inmate hid in a laundry basket and waited until the delivery truck had left the property before jumping out. There have been other escapes in the past, including one this year.

Cavalcante, 34, was found guilty of first-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime for the 2021 death of his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao. He had been wanted by police on a warrant for assaulting her but became enraged when she told him she had learned of the warrant for his arrest in Brazil and planned to alert police to his whereabouts because he continued to harass her.

On April 18, 2021, he drove from his home in King of Prussia armed with a knife to Brandao’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 of the home in the 300 block of Pawling Road when he pulled up 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 wounds in her abdomen, chest and throat, and she died looking at her son, who was gathered in the arms of a neighbor who came to help.

Brandao’s daughter had run from the scene to the neighbor’s apartment, where she screamed, “Help me! Help me! Help me! He’s going to kill my mommy!”

Brandao, 33, also a native of Brazil, was pronounced dead at Paoli Hospital, according to a criminal complaint filed by Chester County Detective David Nieves and Schuylkill Officer Chris Aquilante. Cavalcante had 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.

The trial before Judge Patrick Carmody lasted three days, with the jury returning with its unanimous verdict in a swift decision on Aug. 16. When Carmody sentenced Cavalcante last Tuesday, he noted that Cavalcante has traumatized the young girl who witnessed the murder twice — once when the stabbing occurred and once when she was made to testify about what she saw.

“For you to cause (the girl) to relive the murder of her mother was a conscious decision by you,” the judge told him. “It was a selfish decision.” Using the Portuguese words “homem pequeno” so he could understand, Carmody said it was the decision of a “small man.”

“You thought of yourself and you did not think of those children,” Carmody said.

Ryan, in asking for a life sentence plus 2 1/2 years for the other count, called Cavalcante’s actions, “cold, calculating and heinous,” and noted they had come after he assaulted Brandao on two previous occasions.

“He wanted her dead” because she had threatened to tell authorities that he was wanted for murder in Brazil. “If Miss Brandao went to police he would have been exposed. He did this to silence her. This was a senseless and heartbreaking tragedy. He butchered her to death.”

At the press conference held Thursday, officials — including Acting Warden Howard Holland and Chief of County Detectives David Sassa, said all protocols for prison escapes had been followed. No information on the way the dangerous murderer was able to break out of the prison was given.

The Chester County Commissioners and U.S. Marshals are offering a $10,000 reward ($5,000 each) for information leading to the capture of escaped inmate Danelo Cavalcante.


To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.


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