Prison guard warned that Danilo Cavalcante planned escape a month before he fled, emails show


WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — At least a month before a convicted murderer escaped from a southeastern Pennsylvania prison, eluding a massive manhunt for two weeks before he was recaptured, a prison guard had warned that he was planning an escape, according to an email exchange made public this week.

Hours after the Aug. 31 escape of Danilo Cavalcante from the Chester County Prison, a prison sergeant said in an email that Corrections Officer Hernandez “noted back in July that this inmate was planning an escape.” Sgt. Beavers said he was sending the email because he didn’t want “this to come back on us or Hernandez in any way.”

That email was sent to Capt. Griswold, who forwarded it shortly afterward to the prison’s acting warden, Howard Holland, with a note saying, “This was sent to me this afternoon and I have not forwarded it to anyone else. I am not sure how you want to move forward with this information internally.” Officials withheld the first names of those mentioned.

County spokesperson Rebecca Brain said in a statement that the three people mentioned in the emails, which were first reported by ABC News, “wanted to ensure Acting Warden Holland knew that information about an escape was previously noted.”

Before the escape, Brain said, security measures for an inmate identified as an “escape risk” were only “enacted and heightened” when the inmate was being taken off prison property. Cavalcante was “initially identified as an escape risk” when he was captured in Virginia and taken to the prison in 2021, and around the time of his trial, “unsubstantiated information from an unknown source was received reinforcing Cavalcante’s status as an escape risk,” Brain said.

Since the escape, Brain said, security measures inside the prison and during prisoner transport off prison property have been strengthened, including assigning different-color clothing for those deemed potential escape risks and monitoring by one or two corrections officers of each inmate outside of cells. Officials earlier vowed to enclose exercise yards and add more cameras and guards.

Cavalcante, 34, had been sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her children in 2021. Prosecutors say he wanted to stop her from telling police he was wanted in a 2017 killing in Brazil. He was awaiting transfer to a state prison when he scaled a wall and then jumped from a roof to freedom.

Cavalcante was captured after a two-week manhunt that left residents on edge and led to school closures right at the start of the academic year, as well as warnings for homeowners to lock their doors and blocked roads over the busy Labor Day weekend. He is now being held in a state prison and is due in court next month on an escape charge.

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