Danelo Cavalcante: Heat signal sparked scramble to snare Pennsylvania fugitive

A heat signature detected by a plane sparked a seven-hour scramble to capture escaped Pennsylvania inmate Danelo Cavalcante, in a dramatic climax to the two-week manhunt.

The spotter aircraft had been forced to cut short its flight in the early hours of Wednesday due to a thunderstorm.

But before daybreak, tactical teams on the ground fanned out across the woods of South Coventry Township.

Shortly after 08:00 local time (12:00 GMT), Cavalcante had been caught.

The convicted murderer's "crab walk" out of Chester County Prison, some 30 miles (50km) west of Philadelphia, on 31 August made headlines across the country and in his native Brazil.

Cavalcante, 34, had received a life sentence just one week earlier for the fatal stabbing of his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, and was awaiting transfer to another facility.

The sprawling manhunt involved at least six law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, US Marshals and US Border Patrol.

Residents in the area were urged to be on the lookout, secure their homes and vehicles, and remain vigilant.

Last week, police had set up a perimeter in and around Longwood Gardens, a large botanical park popular with tourists.

But Cavalcante, who stands 5ft (1.5m) tall and weighs 8st 8lb (54kg), managed to evade their sweep.

Amid multiple sightings over the next few days, police twice shifted their focus - first to East Nantmeal Township, then to South Coventry Township.

Lt Col Bivens briefs the media on Sunday
Cavalcante was spotted on several occasions in recent days

The search operation brought upwards of 500 officers, complete with canine units and aviation teams, to the sleepy, leafy suburbs of Philadelphia.

The trail got warmer after Cavalcante's encounter on Monday night with a homeowner, who fired shots at the fugitive as he fled with a .22 calibre rifle stolen from the property's open garage.

Police said the search was being complicated by the hilly, densely wooded terrain.

"We don't have the luxury of charging up the nearest trail and hoping that's the way he went," Pennsylvania State Police Lt Colonel George Bivens told reporters on Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday night, however, the net was finally closing on the double murderer.

First, he apparently set off a burglar alarm at a residence within the police perimeter.

Cavalcante was not there when officers arrived, Lt Col Bivens said Wednesday, but the alarm helped the search team zero in.

"We had been searching an area not far from there already with some tactical teams that night," he said.

Roughly an hour after midnight, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) plane flying overhead picked up the fugitive's heat signal on the ground below and a task force began tracking the source.

But thunder and lightning forced the air team to fly away from the area, leaving the tactical search teams on the ground to wrap up the mission.

Officers secured the search zone as best as they could until additional resources were brought in.

Once the operation resumed, tactical teams converged on the location of the heat source.

"They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise," said Lt Col Bivens.

After a fortnight on the run, the escaped inmate was caught lying in tall grass.

Lt Col Bivens said he had "tried to crawl through thick underbrush, taking his rifle with him as he went".

But a US Customs and Border Protection unit flown in from El Paso, Texas, to join the search released its dog on Cavalcante.

The canine "subdued" the felon and he was "forcibly taken into custody" as he tried to resist arrest, according to Lt Col Bivens.

The capture came about 15 miles north of the prison he had escaped two weeks ago.

By the time of his arrest, he had ditched his prison uniform and was wearing a stolen item of Philadelphia Eagles merchandise.

Officers in full camouflage gear were seen flocking to pose for photos with their handcuffed captive, with Lt Col Bivens declaring they were "proud" of their work.

The officers then cut off Cavalcante's Eagles sweatshirt with scissors, examined the tattoo on his back, and stuffed him into the back of a black police vehicle.

The killer is due to be transferred to the state correctional facility where he will serve out his life sentence.

He also now has another day in court - for the felony of escaping from prison.