Prison officer who failed to report Danelo Cavalcante’s escape from Pennsylvania jail is fired

The correctional officer had worked at the prison for 18 years, sources told CNN

Andrea Blanco
Friday 08 September 2023 23:44 BST
Search for escaped Pennsylvania murderer Danelo Cavalcante enters second week

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A prison officer who failed to report Danelo Cavalcante’s escape from a Pennsylvania jail has been fired.

The development comes just days after Chester County Prison acting Warden Howard Holland said the officer’s actions were at the centre of an investigation by the state attorney’s office. The correctional officer had previously been placed on administrative leave after he failed to see and report Cavalcante’s escape on 31 August.

“We can confirm that the corrections officer on duty when Danelo Cavalcante escaped was terminated yesterday afternoon,” a source told CNN in a statement. “He was an 18-year veteran of the prison.”

Cavalcante, who was recently sentenced to life over the brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend, escaped the facility while other inmates in the exercise yard played basketball. Video of the incident showed him crab-walking up a wall in order to gain access to the prison’s roof.

He then jumped down another area of the prison and left on foot. The unconventional method is exactly the same that was used by another inmate back in May,

During that incident, the inmate was captured within minutes after a tower officer reported the break to prison staff.

In Cavalcante’s case, the escape was only noticed an hour later during a head count when his block returned back inside after the basketball game.

Mr Holland had said on Thursday that appropriate action would be taken against personnel based on the results of the ongoing investigation.

Mr Holland said that following the escape attempt in May, the prison had brought consultants in to increase security at the facility. Razor wire — which Cavalcante pushed through — was placed to prevent access to the roof, but officials didn’t expect “the human element” to fail, Mr Holland said.

A veteran prison guard was fired after he failed to report Danelo Cavalcante’s prison escape
A veteran prison guard was fired after he failed to report Danelo Cavalcante’s prison escape (© Copyright 2023 The Philadelphia Inquirer)

“While we believed that the security measures we had in place were sufficient, they have proven otherwise,” Mr Holland said. “And we will work to enhance our security ... One key difference in [this] escape is the role of the tower officer whose primary responsibility is to oversee the inmate in the exercise yard.”

Mr Holland declined to say what the prison officer was believed to be doing during the escape, only noting that he was at the post.

Authorities said during a press conference on Thursday that the search perimeter had to be expanded to between eight to 10 square miles after Cavalcante slipped past the initial search area.

There was a possible sighting of Cavalcante on 7 September that was being investigated, state police said, but further details about the sighting and who reported it were not disclosed. It came hours after another person reported seeing Cavalcante in an area of Longwood Gardens in East Marlborough Township.

Cavalcante was sentenced last month to spend the rest of his life behind bars for the 2021 murder of his ex-girlfriend
Cavalcante was sentenced last month to spend the rest of his life behind bars for the 2021 murder of his ex-girlfriend (AP)

Before that, Cavalcante was spotted near Chandler Road in Pennsbury Township on Tuesday evening.

There have been at least eight confirmed sightings of Cavalcante. Two school districts and the popular botanical garden remained closed on Friday.

“I have every reason to believe he is within that perimeter,” Lt Col Bevins said. “We are working really hard to capture the convict and not let him go anywhere.”

Cavalcante was sentenced last month to spend the rest of his life behind bars for the 2021 murder of his ex-girlfriend Deborah Brandao. Prosecutors argued during his trial that he murdered Brandao after she threatened to inform American authorities that he was wanted in a 2017 killing in his native Brazil.

The Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers have offered $10,000 for information that leads to Cavalcante’s capture, bringing the reward total to $20,000.

The US Marshals, SWAT, and local and state police have joined the search.

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