Chester County manhunt for convicted killer enters sixth day
Two school districts are closed and residents are being urged to secure homes, vehicles and sheds
A private trail camera captured images of escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante on Monday night, five days after he escaped from Chester County Prison. Cavalcante was convicted last month of murdering his ex-girlfriend and was awaiting transfer to a state correctional institution to serve a life sentence when he escaped. (Pennsylvania State Police handout)
Pennsylvania State Police said on Tuesday that they have expanded the search for a convicted murderer who escaped from the Chester County Prison after seeing evidence that he had obtained clothing and supplies and was headed south.
The search for Danelo Cavalcante entered its sixth day on Tuesday after state police and federal authorities searched over the holiday weekend in a two-mile perimeter around the prison on the edge of the Philadelphia suburbs.
Two Chester County school districts, Unionville-Chadds Ford and Kennett Consolidated School District, in the southwest part of the county, canceled classes on Tuesday after getting notice from police that Cavalcante was on the move.
A private trail camera on the grounds of Longwood Gardens, a popular botanical garden in Kennett Square, captured images of Cavalcante twice on Monday evening that showed him carrying a duffel bag, a backpack and wearing a hooded sweatshirt, state police Lt. Col. George Bivens said in a briefing Tuesday morning.
Bivens said the camera showed that Cavalcante had escaped the initial search perimeter, which prompted state police to expand the search radius to three miles and call in additional resources from the FBI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Residents within a mile and a half of the camera were notified to be on the lookout for Cavalcante in a reverse 911 call early Tuesday.
“We asked them to please secure homes, outbuildings and vehicles. Cavalcante has clearly already obtained some clothing and unknown other supplies and we want to minimize any opportunity to obtain anything more,” Bivens said.
While authorities have labeled Cavalcante extremely dangerous, Bivens said there was no need for residents in the area to avoid leaving their homes and said ordinary precautions such as keeping doors and windows locked is sufficient.
Cavalcante, 34, was convicted last month of stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death in front of her children in April 2021. He is also a suspect in a murder in his native Brazil, where he fled by entering Puerto Rico illegally and obtaining a fake identity.
He was sentenced to life in prison the week before his escape from Chester County Prison, where he was awaiting transfer to a state correctional institution.
Bivens said Tuesday that he could not release information about the investigation into how Cavalcante escaped from the county prison. He said numerous interviews have been conducted to determine how it happened and whether Cavalcante had planned the escape with contacts on the outside.
The area where authorities have been searching for Cavalcante in Pocopson Township is a mix of farm fields and wooded subdivisions about 30 miles west of Philadelphia. Authorities scoured woods and backyard outbuildings on the ground and used helicopters to search for Cavalcante from the air.
They also played a message over loudspeakers recorded by his mother urging him in Portuguese to surrender peacefully, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Bivens said searchers have been hampered by dense undergrowth and numerous large residential properties with sheds and garages that provide places to hide. The sighting on camera Monday night is an indication that the pressure of the search has been effective, Bivens said.
“We squeezed him hard enough over a period of a few days and he was not able to get any relief and managed to find a place to get out,” Bivens said.
The area where Cavalcante evaded searchers had difficult terrain and remote areas. The land to the south where Cavalcante is believed to be heading is more open, Bivens said.
Bivens added that while state police have been in contact with their counterparts in Delaware, there was no indication that Cavalcante had crossed the state border. Because there is a federal warrant for his arrest, it would not complicate the search, Bivens said.
“I’m confident he will slip up,” Bivens said.
A $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to Cavalcante’s arrest. Anyone with information about Cavalcante is asked to call the Pennsylvania State Police tip line at 717-562-2987.
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