Mom of escaped killer Danelo Cavalcante defends murders

NEWS: Mom of escaped killer Danelo Cavalcante defends murders

The mother of a convicted murderer who was caught Wednesday after nearly two weeks on the run has defended his crimes, saying he “had no other choice” than to kill his ex-girlfriend.

Danelo Cavalcante’s mother, Iracema, blamed his girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, for her own murder in an interview Tuesday.

“Did it happen? It happened. But it happened because of the stranglehold she put on him, the stance she took with him,” Iracema said of her son, Danelo, stabbing Brandao to death while her young son and daughter were present.

“It wasn’t femicide,” Iracema told the New York Times. “He had to, he had no other choice.”

Pennsylvania authorities believe Danelo, 34, killed Brandao, 33, in April 2021 after she discovered evidence that he murdered someone else in his home country of Brazil four years earlier.

In that case, Iracema claims, Valtar Júnior Moreira dos Reis had threatened to kill her son first.

The killer’s mother blamed his victim for her own death.
Getty Images

She said she now worries about what will happen to her son, who was seen being escorted by a SWAT team into a van Wednesday.

More than 400 law enforcement officers had been assisting in the massive search for the killer they described as “extremely dangerous.”

In one effort to force Danelo to surrender, authorities blared a message Iracema recorded, in which she urged her son to turn himself in.

Danelo Cavalcante is pictured in surveillance footage while on the run.
Danelo Cavalcante, 34, was captured by authorities after a two-week manhunt.
Pennsylvania State Police Depart/AFP via Getty Images

Deborah Brandao, 33, is pictured.
Cavalcante was recently convicted of stabbing Deborah Brandao to death while her young son and daughter were present.
NBC News

But Iracema told the Times she now fears what may happen to Danelo — arguing that life in prison or death at the hands of the police would be unjust.

“If I said my son didn’t make a mistake, I’d be lying,” she said.

“I know what my son did was wrong. I know my son should pay for his mistake. But I want my son to pay for his mistake with dignity — not to pay with his life.”

Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens is pictured at the press conference Tuesday.
Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens announced on Tuesday he knows where Danelo is hiding out, but asked the public to remain patient as tactical crews comb through the heavily wooded area.

Cavalcante is seen in surveillance footage making his escape.
Cavalcante escaped the Chester County Prison on Aug. 31 by crab-walking between two walls.
Chester County/MEGA

She went on to say that, if faced with life at a maximum security prison, Danelo may be better off dying.

“If [the choice is] to go to a place to suffer and die in that place, it’s better to die soon,” she said. “You don’t have to suffer so much just to die later.”

“Today, I see my son as dead in a strange place, trampled, everyone just lying about him, saying he’s something he’s not,” Iracema added.

Danelo was caught on surveillance footage crab-walking up two walls at Chester County Prison to escape on Aug. 31,  just one week after he was hit with a life sentence for fatally stabbing his former girlfriend.

The killer later showed up on chilling footage indicating that he changed his appearance by removing his facial hair.

The manhunt nearly reached its boiling point Monday night into Tuesday morning after a homeowner reported firing seven shots at someone matching Cavalcante’s description, breaking into his home in East Nantmeal Township.

Cavalcante is pictured in his mugshot.
Cavalcante’s mother said she is afraid of what might happen if he turns himself in.
Pennsylvania State Police Depart/AFP via Getty Images

Investigators descended on the location of the confirmed sighting and found shoes they believe may belong to Cavalcante, according to the local report.

SWAT officers in armored trucks with hundreds of police officers on Tuesday searched the neighborhood after a helicopter caught a glimpse of the dangerous escapee in South Coventry Township.

Two state police helicopters were hovering around the French Creek Elementary school area for most of the morning — near where the homeowner reported firing at the escaped murderer. 

A reverse 911 call was put out for residents of South Coventry, West Vincent, and East Nantmeal townships by the Pennsylvania State Police — advising locals to lock their doors and windows, secure their vehicles, and remain indoors in the emergency alert before Danelo was caught.

Law enforcement officers ride past a roadblock as they searched for Cavalcante.
Armed police have been searching a heavily wooded area for any signs of Cavalcante for nearly two weeks.

Police are seen walking down a winding road lined with thick brush as they searched for Cavalcante.
Cavalcante previously fled authorities in his home country of Brazil, and made his way into the United States.

Danelo had previously evaded authorities after allegedly shooting Moreira to death at a public square in 2017.

Friends say he fled the scene, and disappeared into the ranchlands among the area’s remote rural towns.

“When you’re used to the ranch, you know how to hide. He spent a lot of time in the bush,” longtime Figueirópolis resident Raimundo Campos dos Santos recalled about the search.

He toiled on a ranch and earned a reputation as a hard worker — but also somebody you didn’t want to cross, residents previously told the Times.

“He kept to himself, didn’t talk much,” said Evaldo Alves Feitosa. “He didn’t look you in the eye.”

Carlos Humberto Jacob, a friend of Cavalcante’s victim, also said, “He had this reputation that he kept a lot of guns at home. 

“People used to say he had heavy weapons at the ranch.”

Eventually, Cavalcante made his way to the United States, arriving in January 2018.

“He went there to work, to change his life, to get somewhere,” Iracema said, claiming her son loved his life in the US.

“He felt at home there,” she said. “Except he didn’t know what was waiting for him there.”

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