Murderer escapes US jail by 'crab walking' up wall prompting manhunt

Danelo Cavalcante's brazen escape, caught on CCTV, has prompted an extensive man hunt that has entered its seventh day.

Watch the moment killer Danelo Cavalcante scales a prison wall and escapes. Credit: CNN

A murderer has escaped from a Philadelphia jail by crab walking up a wall in a breakout that wasn’t detected by guards for an hour.

Danelo Cavalcante’s brazen escape has prompted an extensive man hunt that has entered its seventh day.

Footage shows the killer scaling the wall of the exercise area of the prison, before climbing over razor wire and jumping from a roof.

Cavalcante received a life sentence last month for killing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her children in 2021, and escaped while awaiting transfer to state prison.

Prosecutors say he killed her to stop her from telling police that he’s wanted in a 2017 killing back in Brazil.

Danelo Cavalcante was convicted of fatally stabbing his girlfriend. / Credit: AP

The timeline and details of Cavalcante’s escape – including that he got out using the same route another prisoner took in May – were released as police from various agencies flooded a search zone of increasingly worried residents.

A tower guard on duty during the breakout was put on leave as part of the escape investigation.

The escape and search have attracted international attention and became big news in Cavalcante’s native Brazil.

The main newspaper in Rio de Janeiro ran a lengthy story on Wednesday with the headline “Dangerous hide-and-seek.”

Howard Holland, the acting warden of the Chester County Prison, played a security video at a news conference on Wednesday.

It shows the 34-year-old prisoner standing in a passageway next to the jail yard before bracing his hands on one wall and his feet on another then “crab-walking” up the walls out of the camera’s view.

Mr Holland said the prison had brought in a consultant after the first escape in May and added razor wire to that area.

“What was perhaps overlooked was the fact that addressing the single point of physical counter-measures should have been bolstered by additional means. We are addressing that,” Mr Holland said.

He said the prison was fully staffed when Cavalcante broke out.

Pennsylvania State police search the woods and a creek in Pennsbury Township. / Credit: AP

Mr Holland said when the inmate had escaped in May, he was returned within minutes after a tower guard quickly sounded the alarm.

He said Cavalcante was identified as missing after a headcount, more than an hour after the video was taken, and a public siren was sounded about 10am.

Mr Holland declined to say why the guard, whose name has not been made public, had not noticed Cavalcante hopping from the roof and heading away from the prison’s perimeter.

Two suburban Philadelphia school districts remained shuttered and one of the nation’s premier botanical gardens was closed on Wednesday as authorities kept up their search.

Cavalcante has been spotted six times since he escaped, most recently on Tuesday night when he was seen in a residential area but soon disappeared into the woods.

Signs warning locals and drivers passing through to remain vigilant as the manhunt continues. / Credit: AP

Authorities have urged residents to keep their homes and vehicles locked, to check the properties of any neighbours on currently on holiday, and to look out for missing cars, bicycles or other transportation Cavalcante might use.

One resident Ryan Drummond, had his home broken into late on Friday by a man believed to be Cavalcante.

He believes the killer came in through the French doors that had a broken lock – and was possibly nearby when his family was talking about the problem as they locked up the house that night.

The intruder left with “a peach, an apple, maybe a few snap peas” that he found on the kitchen counter, Mr Drummond said, along with a white hat that he soon lost as he fled past a neighbour’s yard.

“Everybody wants this to be over,” added Mr Drummond, who said his frustration lies not with the search efforts but with the prison.

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