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  • Writer's pictureEoghan McNamee

The Danilo Cavalcante Saga - Explained

by Eoghan McNamee

As we walked out of the building at Rustin on one of the first days of school, one of my close friends read a rumor out of a group chat referencing an escaped convict from Chester County Prison. It sparked fear among some of the members of our group, but largely we laughed it off by making fun of the guy. After all, he was only a touch over 5 feet tall. Easy to point and laugh. We all drove home that night with the expectation that this would be the last we heard about the silly little prison escapee. A short laugh for a few days after school. Boy were we wrong.

On August 31, 2023, 34-year-old Danilo Cavalcante escaped from Chester County Prison, where he was being held for the murder of his girlfriend in 2021. Yes, his name is spelled with an “i” even though early reports listed as being spelled with an “e.” He lasted an astounding 14 days on the run against police barricades, tracking dogs, helicopter photography, and heavily armed paramilitary teams. He was eventually captured in South Coventry Township, in a pile of logs behind a John Deere Store, 30 miles from the Prison. However, in his brief freedom, Cavalcante took a wild tour of Chester County, bringing mayhem and hilarity with him as he went. So let’s jump into a full breakdown of Danilo’s journey of a lifetime (or about 2 weeks):

Danilo Cavalcante’s escape from Chester County Prison, as shocking as it is, is not unprecedented. Rustin Alum and convicted felon Igor Bolte used a similar technique to partially escape Chester County only a few months ago on May 19, but he was spotted as he ran along the top of the wall, and was re-captured only 5 minutes later. Bolte’s failure, however, was proof of concept, since the prison did relatively little to secure the route Bolte used to break out, and months later Danilo used the same pattern as Bolte to escape the prison. He was caught on camera climbing up a wall by pressing his hands against one wall and his feet against the other and slowly scaling up the wall to the roof of the exercise yard. The guard in the tower was unattentive, never saw Cavalcante on the roof, and he was able to make a clean escape.

The late evening of September 1, 2023 was the first public sighting of Cavalcante, when Pocopson native Ryan Drummond heard a commotion in his kitchen, and his door left cracked open. He went to the top of stairs, and flicked a light switch to signal to the convict that he had been detected. Cavalcante hesitantly flicked the lights in return and casually exited the house before Drummond could get police to his home. The next day, he was spotted in the mid-afternoon on a residential camera only a mile and a half from the prison, and he was spotted by a state trooper who could not contain him.

For the entirety of September 3rd, there was no news on Danilo’s whereabouts, and we would have to wait until the evening of September 4th, when he was spotted on a wildlife camera at Longwood Gardens, once headed north and once headed south about an hour apart. By this point, he had obtained a backpack full of items, a duffle bag, and a hoodie. The next night, Cavalcante was sighted by a homeowner in a river bed, but he fled into the woods before police could capture him

Only on September 6th, day 7 of the escape, did the police formally begin to form a perimeter search around some Pocopson neighborhoods near Longwood Gardens, and he was spotted within the perimeter multiple times on the 8th, but each time evading capture and returning to hide. Or so it was thought. Somehow, Cavalcante had managed to slip the tight police perimeter, despite police cruisers being lined up with lights flashing every 25 yards on most of the key roads surrounding the search area in Pocopson Township. He was found to have stolen a van almost a mile away from a local bakery, Baily’s Dairy, who had left the vehicle unlocked with the keys inside.

He used the van to flee 20 miles north to East Pikeland township, where he attempted to reconnect with an old contact, but the contact was not home, and his ring camera captured his new style. Clean shaven, wearing a hat, hoodie, and shorter hair. After missing this contact, he went to Phoenixville in an attempt to find another former assistant, but was seen and reported by locals before he could establish a connection. He fled Phoenixville into the more rural areas surrounding the small borough.

As if the people of Chester County weren’t already frightened enough by the elusive killer, police added fuel to the fire on the 11th by confirming that Cavalcante had stolen a .22 caliber rifle from an open garage in Coventry Township. The homeowner drew his own handgun and opened fire, but missed his mark. Danilo’s hoodie was found at the end of the driveway, confirming the police suspicions.

Luckily, however, Danilo never got to use his new toy, as late on the night of September 12th, a Drug Enforcement Authority helicopter scanned the area using thermal imaging, allowing police teams to surround and capture Cavalcante in the early morning hours of September 13th. It was a heroic police dog that was finally able to subdue Cavalcante, who suffered a minor scalp wound. It was confirmed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry that he was to be charged with a felony for escape, and he was immediately transferred to a state prison in Montgomery County upon his arrival to begin his life sentence.

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