Danelo Cavalcante: Escaped inmate has history of abuse and violence

For more than a week, convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante has eluded hundreds of police officers sent to track him after a brazen prison escape.

Cavalcante, 34, escaped from a Pennsylvania prison on 31 August, just a week after being sentenced to life for the violent murder of his girlfriend, Deborah Brandão.

The Brazilian national has a long criminal history and is also wanted for a 2017 murder in his home country.

Authorities have warned that he is "extremely dangerous".

Here's what we know about Cavalcante and the ongoing search.

An alleged killing in Brazil

Little is known about Cavalcante's life before he came to the US, although some officials have described him as a former street gang member.

According to police in Brazil, Cavalcante shot a man dead in the town of Figueirópolis in Brazil's northern state of Tocantins in November 2017.

Authorities believe that the murder stemmed from a dispute over an "alleged debt related to the repair of a vehicle". After allegedly shooting the victim six times, he stole his cell phone before fleeing the scene in a car.

Following the alleged shooting, he fled to Puerto Rico before arriving in the US illegally.

A public defender assigned to work on the case, Magnus Kelly Lourenco de Madeiros, told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo that he never managed to establish contact with Cavalcante after the 2017 murder.

A warrant for his arrest was issued in Brazil in June 2018.

The murder of Deborah Brandão

In the US, Cavalcante eventually settled in Pennsylvania, and soon began dating Deborah Brandão, another Brazilian national living in a nearby county.

In an interview with CNN, Brandão's sister Sarah said that Cavalcante initially was "nice to her" and to her two children and "seemed normal", although he was often "very silent, observant and reserved".

Eventually, a darker side emerged.

"She kept saying that he was extremely jealous, that when he drank he became a different person, that he kept going through her phone," she told CNN.

In December 2020, Brandão filed a protection from abuse order against Cavalcante, Prosecutors later outlined a history of abuse, including one incident in which Cavalcante was said to have bit Brandão and chased her from her home.

In another incident, he chased her with a knife, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Then on 8 April 2021, Cavalcante stabbed Brandão 38 times in front of her children, then aged four and seven.

Investigators believe the murder took place after Brandão learnt of Cavalcante's warrant in Brazil and threatened to expose him. He was taken into custody hours later and convicted in August after a three-day trial.

Cavalcante and the wall he climbed pictured moments before his prison break began
Cavalcante (left) moments before his prison break began

How is the case being covered in Brazil?

Cavalcante's escape has generated significant interest in Brazil and has been widely covered by local media outlets.

Brazilian website, G1 also interviewed Sarah Brandão, who said that the family has felt "fear all the time" since Cavalcante's escape.

"We are safe with the police, but we are hoping that he will be found," she said. "At the moment, we are protecting ourselves as a family."

On social media, many Brazilians reacted with a mixture of astonishment and anger to the video of Cavalcante's escape, and there has been speculation about whether he might try to return to Brazil via Mexico, although there has been no evidence to suggest that.

Cavalcante's escape and life on the run

Footage released on 6 September shows that Cavalcante "crab walked" up two walls separated by a 5ft (1.5m) hallway to escape the Chester County Prison. Another inmate, Igor Bolte, had used a similar method to escape the facility earlier this year.

After reaching the roof, Cavalcante used a ladder to reach a less secure part of the prison.

Authorities now believe that Cavalcante has been traveling by night in heavily wooded terrain. Earlier this week, Pennsylvania State Police Lt Col George Bivens told reporters that he "may be having trouble navigating" through the woods and could be hiding in sheds or other structures.

There is a $20,000 (£16,000) reward being offered for information leading to his capture.