Pa. jail staffer warned that Danelo Cavalcante was ‘planning an escape’ a month before busting out


(NEW YORK) — Weeks before Danelo Cavalcante broke out of the Chester County Prison in Pennsylvania, a correctional officer warned that the convicted murderer was “planning an escape,” according to internal documents obtained by ABC News.

“I am just sending this cause I don’t want this to come back on us or [Officer] Hernandez in anyway,” Chester County Prison Sgt. Jerry Beavers wrote to Cpt. Harry Griswold several hours after the escape on Aug. 31. “He noted back in July that this inmate was planning an escape.”

The email, obtained under Pennsylvania’s right-to-know law, was forwarded by Griswold to Howard Holland, then the newly appointed acting warden, a few hours after he received it.

“This was sent to me this afternoon and I have not forwarded it to anyone else,” Griswold wrote to Holland. “I am not sure how you want to move forward with this information internally.”

Cavalcante escaped from the prison not long after being given a life sentence for the brutal 2021 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, who was stabbed 38 times, by climbing out of the facility using a similar technique as another detainee who escaped months earlier.

He put his hands on one wall and feet on the other and then shimmied his body up to the top before moving across roofs in order to get to freedom. He was on the run for nearly two weeks until he was captured on the other side of the county. The episode led to a massive public safety crisis in the Philadelphia suburbs and a series of embarrassments for local law enforcement.

The escape warning in July was not the first time that prison officials were cautioned about Cavalcante, also accused of murder in his native Brazil.

“Cavalcante was initially identified as an escape risk when captured in Virginia and committed to Chester County Prison in 2021,” Chester County spokesperson Becky Brain said in response to questions from ABC News. “During the time surrounding his trial, unsubstantiated information from an unknown source was received reinforcing Cavalcante’s status as an escape risk.”

Despite that status, Cavalcante was allowed to be in the prison yard with other detainees during a recreation period and was not directly supervised by a correctional officer on the ground since the facility’s escape risk protocols only applied when detainees were not on prison grounds.

Griswold, Beavers and Hernandez “wanted to ensure acting Warden Holland knew that information about an escape was previously noted,” Brain said.

Cavalcante is now being held in a state prison in nearby Montgomery County and is due in court on an escape charge next month.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the escape. A spokesman Friday said he could not comment on how much longer the probe would take. On Monday, he did not respond to questions about the earlier escape warning.

Brain said that since Cavalcante’s escape, changes have been made inside the prison for detainees considered potential escape risks, including different color clothing and increased monitoring by correctional officers.

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