UNIONVILLE, Pa. – Thermal-imaging technology, dedicated search teams, and an unexpected element of surprise all contributed to the successful capture of escaped murderer Danelo Souza Cavalcante on Wednesday morning. After a grueling 14-day manhunt across southeastern Pennsylvania’s expansive farmlands and dense forests, law enforcement finally cornered Cavalcante near the outer perimeter of a 10-square-mile search zone.
Burglar Alarm Leads the Way
The breakthrough came when a burglar alarm went off shortly after midnight on Tuesday. Although no sign of Cavalcante was found during the initial investigation, the alarm drew the attention of nearby search teams who were already on high alert. In response, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration promptly supplied a plane equipped with advanced thermal imaging technology to aid in the search.
Around 1 a.m., the DEA plane’s thermal imaging camera detected a heat signal, pinpointing Cavalcante’s location on the ground. Ground searchers immediately sprang into action, tracking and encircling the area where the signal emanated.
Battling Stormy Conditions
Unfortunately, as storms rolled in with heavy rain and lightning, the DEA plane was forced to retreat from the area. Undeterred, the search teams on the ground remained in position, determined to establish a secure perimeter to prevent Cavalcante from slipping away once again. They formed a tight ring around the hot zone, ensuring that every member was within eyesight of each other along the inner perimeter.
“The dedication and coordination of our searchers on the ground were crucial in maintaining a close watch on Cavalcante,” emphasized Robert Clark, supervisor of the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force in Philadelphia.
Despite the challenging weather conditions, the combined efforts of all stakeholders led to the ultimate capture of Danelo Souza Cavalcante. The successful operation demonstrated the effectiveness of employing advanced technology, experienced search teams, and the element of surprise in executing a comprehensive manhunt.
Later in the morning, the plane returned along with more search teams. Shortly after 8 a.m., a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol team closed in on Cavalcante in a wooded area, approximately half a mile away from where the burglar alarm had gone off, according to Bivens.
Stealth and Surprise
Cavalcante had been lying low, likely trying to avoid detection, when the team of about 20 to 25 members approached close enough for him to sense their presence.
With stealth and the element of surprise on their side, they were able to move in silently.
“Cavalcante didn’t realize he was surrounded until it was too late,” revealed Bivens.
In a desperate attempt to escape, Cavalcante began crawling through thick underbrush, compelling the Customs and Border Patrol team to unleash their search dog, Yoda, a Belgian Malinois.
“They issued verbal commands to Cavalcante, but he defied them and continued to crawl away,” stated Clark.
In a fierce struggle, the canine subdued him, leaving Cavalcante with a bleeding scalp wound. First, Yoda bit his forehead, then clamped onto his thigh until Cavalcante finally surrendered, allowing the officers to apprehend him and apply handcuffs.
“He must have been in unbearable pain at that point,” remarked Clark.
The entire operation, from the moment the officers closed in to the moment they apprehended Cavalcante, lasted approximately five minutes, according to Bivens.
Although Cavalcante had managed to steal a rifle during his escape, no shots were fired during the intense final moments of the pursuit.