A convicted murderer stretched himself between a pair of parallel walls to escape from a Pennsylvania prison, newly released surveillance video showed on Wednesday.
Danelo Cavalcante, 34, stretched his 5-foot, 120-pound frame across the brick and cinderblock walls to push himself to the roof at Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township before making his way out of custody Thursday.
“I just want to ensure that we know the gravity of situation and how it’s impacted our community negatively,” acting warden Howard Holland told reporters.
“Moreover, to the victims of this individual, I want to make sure that they know we are consistently and consciously thinking of what they’re going through. They are continually in our thoughts and prayers to make sure we bring Mr. Cavalcante to justice.”
Cavalcante’s point of escape was in the exercise yard, where another inmate, Igor Bolte, also got away by scaling the walls on May 19 this year.
Bolte was captured in a residential neighborhood about a half-mile from the prison.
After Bolte’s escape, razor wire was put on the roof, but that did not stop Cavalcante.
“This escape was similar to the methodology to the escape by Cavalcante,” Holland said. “Cavalcante escaped at the same location as Igor Bolte. But for Cavalcante there was razor wire to contend with before reaching the roof.”
Security consultants had told the prison that the sharp wire would be enough to prevent future escapes.
The prison is now considering other measures such as enclosing the exercise yards, adding more cameras and repositioning guards.
“Once the additional razor wire had been added to the escape route following the Igor Bolt escape in May, it was determined by our security advisors that this one level of security was sufficient,” Holland said.
“In fact, what was perhaps overlooked, was the fact that addressing a single point of physical countermeasure should have been bolstered by additional means. We are addressing that.”
Human error also might have played a role in Cavalcante’s escape.
A tower officer immediately spotted Bolt on the roof in May, leading to his recapture in five minutes, Holland said.
Cavalcante, who entered the exercise yard at 8:33 a.m., escaped at 8:51 a.m. but a tower officer, who has been put on administrative leave, didn’t spot him getting out, Holland added.
After Cavalcante’s group went back to their cells at 9:35 a.m., guards realized they were short one prisoner until 9:45 a.m., Holland said.
A lockdown and new round of searches around the prison didn’t turn up Cavalcante and the public escape siren didn’t sound until 10:01 a.m., according to Holland, meaning the inmate had a 10-minute head start.
The escape also happened without anyone in a control room spotting the wall climb on surveillance video. There are 160 cameras around the facility and a guard could have easily missed it, according to Holland.
“With the time it took him to go up, and we all saw the video, it wasn’t very long,” Holland said. “It’s feasible that we didn’t see it because we just weren’t focused on it.”
The ongoing search for Cavalcante prompted the nearby Kennett Consolidated and Unionville-Chadds Ford School Districts to cancel class again on Wednesday.
“It’s a very challenging area. I think we’ve had a number of these types searches in the past,” state police Lt. Col. George Bivens said. “Some take hours, some take days, some take weeks and some take months.”
Searchers are concentrating their efforts on an area bordered by Pennsylvania Route 926 on the north, Hillendale Road on the south, Pennsylvania Route 52 on the west and Creek Road on the east, police said.
He was last spotted on Tuesday in a creek bed near Chandler Road in Pennsbury township, southeast of the prison, authorities said.
A police dog had to be hospitalized due to the heat on Tuesday night but is expected to recover, Bivens said.
Cavalcante on Aug. 16 was convicted of first-degree murder for fatally stabbing a former girlfriend and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is also wanted for murder in Brazil.
Cavalcante is considered extremely dangerous and anyone who sees him should not approach him and call 911 immediately, officials said.
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