Murderer Danelo Cavalcante was able to escape a prison yard in suburban Pennsylvania last week by climbing up a wall and over razor wire, officials said at a news conference Wednesday.
Howard Holland, the acting warden of the prison, said there was a guard in an observation tower who has since been put on administrative leave. There were no guards walking in the yard.
A security video of the escape shows Cavalcante, 34, standing in a passageway bracing his hands against one wall and his feet against another, then walking his way upward out of the camera’s view. The warden said Cavalcante escaped in the same way as another inmate in May, and that the prison added the razor wire after the earlier escape.
The escape and manhunt have attracted international attention and become big news in Cavalcante’s native country of Brazil, where it has been a daily fixture on TV news and in newspapers. The main newspaper in Rio de Janeiro ran a lengthy story in Wednesday editions with the headline ‘Dangerous hide-and-seek.’
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 stop her from telling police that he’s wanted in a 2017 killing in Brazil.
He had been captured in Virginia after Brandao’s killing and authorities believe he was trying to return to Brazil.
Two suburban Philadelphia school districts remained shuttered and one of the nation’s premier botanical gardens was closed Wednesday as authorities worked to flush out the fugitive.
Cavalcante has been spotted five times since he escaped Thursday from the Chester County Prison. The most recent sighting came Monday night at Longwood Gardens, where trail surveillance video captured him walking through the area with a duffel bag, backpack and hooded sweatshirt he apparently stole while on the run.
That sighting led officials to move the search area farther south on Tuesday after they determined that Cavalcante had likely slipped through the original perimeter set by hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers, but they said his movements show he’s and that his options are dwindling.
The ongoing manhunt of a fugitive authorities labeled extremely dangerous forced officials in two school districts within the large search area to cancel classes for a second straight day, citing “an overabundance of caution.” The botanical garden Longwood Gardens, which is closed on Tuesdays, cited the same reason in announcing it would not open Wednesday.
Authorities have urged residents to keep their homes and vehicles locked, to check the properties of vacationing neighbors and to look out for missing cars, bicycles or any other mode of transportation Cavalcante might use.
“It’s unnerving to know that I can’t stand in my backyard with my dogs. My husband has to come outside with me and, you know, it’s just an uneasy feeling,” said Danielle Lawrence, of Pocopson, which is near the county’s jail, roughly 25 miles west of Philadelphia.