SOUTH COVENTRY TWP., Pennsylvania — As authorities closed in on Danelo Cavalcante, an escaped murderer who spent two weeks on the run after breaking out of a Pennsylvania prison, he made one last attempt to get away.

But a K-9 named Yoda helped bring the manhunt to a swift end.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection

A plane picked up Cavalcante’s heat signature on Tuesday night in a wooded area of Chester County.

Police formed a tight perimeter around him and moved in to make the arrest early Wednesday morning.

Cavalcante had been lying prone, likely to avoid detection, when search teams of about 20 to 25 members got close enough for him to realize they were there.

“They were able to move in very quietly. They had the element of surprise. Cavalcante did not realize he was surrounded until that had occurred,” said Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Cavalcante began to crawl through heavy underbrush to try to escape, prompting the Customs and Border Patrol team to release Yoda, a 4-year-old Belgian Malinois, to pursue him.

This photo released by the U.S. Marshals shows the moment Danelo Cavalcante was captured on the morning of Sept. 13, 2023.

U.S. Marshals

“They actually gave him verbal commands. He refused the verbal commands. He attempted to crawl away,” said Supervisory Deputy Robert Clark of the U.S. Marshals.

The dog subdued him in a struggle, leaving Cavalcante with a bleeding scalp wound.

He was first bitten on the forehead, then Yoda clenched his thigh and held on, Clark said. That’s when Cavalcante submitted, and officers got him in handcuffs.

“I think he was in pain at that point,” Clark said. “He was probably in excruciating pain.”

From the time law officers moved in, to the time they captured Cavalcante, took about five minutes, Bivens said.

Officers say Yoda played an important role in preventing Cavalcante from using the rifle he had with him.

“The fact a canine was able to apprehend the suspect is always a good thing to see,” said Patrick Fitzgerald, the owner of Keystone K-9 Services.

Fitzgerald has trained hundreds of dogs in Pottstown and surrounding areas. He says temperament, drive, and aggression are what define a well-trained K-9, and Yoda did what he was trained to do.

“A big thing in this case is scent detection, finding a scent base from a suspect whether it’s an article of clothing, backpack, shoes, blood,” he said.

Yoda has been dubbed a canine hero after his help in capturing Cavalcante.

Fortunately, Yoda and all the other officers were unharmed.

“The only thing is I wish I could’ve been the one to train that dog. Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Great to see a canine apprehend a suspect and come out unharmed,” said Fitzgerald.

RELATED: Escaped Pa. prisoner survived on watermelon, was almost stepped on during search: Sources

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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