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September 04, 2023

Four sightings confirmed of convicted murderer who escaped Chester County Prison as state police continue search

Authorities are searching a wooded area with a two-mile radius in Pocopson Township for Danelo Cavalcante, who was most recently spotted by state troopers on Sunday

Investigations Crime
chester county prison escape update cavalcante Source/Chester County D.A.'s Office

There have been four confirmed sightings of Danelo Cavalcante, a convicted murderer who escaped Chester County Prison last week, as the police search continues. Authorities are looking for Cavalcante in a wooded area with a two-mile radius in Pocopson Township, police said on Monday.

The search for Danelo Cavalcante, a convicted murder who escaped Chester County Prison last Thursday, has stretched into a fifth day. 

LATEST: Convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante captured, ending the 13-day manhunt for escaped Chester County prisoner

Authorities are concentrating the ongoing search on a wooded area with a two-mile radius bordered by the intersection of Rt. 926 and Rt. 52, north on Rt. 52 to Parkersville Road, southeast to Rt. 926, and west to the intersection of Rt. 926 and Rt. 52 in Pocopson Township, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said during a press conference Monday afternoon.

MORE: Murderer who escaped Chester County Prison caught on video 1.5 miles from the prison Saturday morning, DA says

"There is every reason to believe he remains in this area," Bivens said.

There have been four credible sightings of Cavalcante within that area, with the most recent sighting taking place on Sunday afternoon, police say. On Sunday, Cavalcante was spotted by a trooper from a distance. The trooper gave chase but was unable to reach Cavalcante before he disappeared due to the terrain and other factors, Bivens said. Early Saturday morning, Cavalcante was seen on a residential camera around 12:30 a.m. on the 1800 block of Lenape Road in Pocopson Township, just 1.5 miles from Chester County Prison.

The search for Cavalcante was initially being led by the Chester County District Attorney's Office, with assistance from state police and other local, state and federal agencies. Now, with the search focused on Pa. State Police's primary coverage area, state troopers have been given a leading role in the search. The U.S. Marshals are also involved in the investigation.

State police have secured the area, located about 40 miles west of Center City Philadelphia, and continue to search for Cavalcante. The public is asked to avoid the vicinity of the search area, so as not to interfere with the investigation. 

"We're actively searching that area, we're certainly not trying to lock anyone down," Bivens said. "But we want to keep residents as safe as possible while we thoroughly search that area."

Cavalcante is described as a 34-year-old Brazilian male who speaks Portuguese and Spanish. He is 5 feet tall and 120 pounds, with curly black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, gray shorts and white sneakers. Anyone with information on Cavalcante can call a tip line at 717-562-2987. There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to Cavalcante's arrest.

During the press conference, Bivens called on people in the search area to familiarize themselves with Cavalcante's photo and description. They also should alert police if themselves or their neighbors have been away from home for the long weekend, as police can be sent to check their properties. Anyone living in the search area who is returning to their homes after being away should call authorities if they find anything in the home was disturbed or if they see anything suspicious on home security cameras.

"We know that that he is going to be looking for a means to sustain himself," Bivens said. "He's going to need clothing. He's going to need food. And just to get out of the weather. It's pretty hot out there. I'm sure he's looking for some better shelter. So for a lot of reasons, we would be concerned about where he might hide."

Authorities are investigating two burglaries in the area, but were unable to confirm on Monday whether the evidence linked Cavalcante to the incidents. 

Despite Cavalcante's "desperate" situation, Bivens said there is no indication Cavalcante poses a threat to people living in the neighborhoods surrounding the search area, and that people do not need to cancel plans or hide indoors. 

"(Cavalcante) doesn't want to be caught," Bivens said. "He doesn't want to go back now. Could he be desperate and do something? Sure. But we don't have information to suggest that anyone is at risk for going out in their yard."

Cavalcante's mother has worked with authorities to record a video in Portuguese calling for her son's peaceful surrender. If Cavalcante does not actively surrender to police, deadly force has been authorized, Bivens said.

Cavalcante was convicted in August and sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend in 2021. He was being held at the county prison before his transfer to a state prison when it was discovered he was missing around 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 31.

Cavalcante killed 33-year-old Deborah Brandao in front of her two children at a home in Schuylkill Township. Prosecutors said before she was stabbed, Brandao had threatened to go to police with information about Cavalcante's involvement in a 2017 homicide in Brazil, where he remains wanted by authorities.

Brandao, who was stabbed multiple times, managed to tell one of her children during the attack to run to a neighbor to get help and call 911. Cavalcante fled the scene and was later arrested in Virginia.

So far, authorities have not revealed details about their investigation into how Cavalcante escaped the prison. Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan said all efforts have instead been channeled into catching Cavalcante.

"Our focus right now is to capture this fugitive," Ryan said on Monday. "He's a dangerous person. We will be able to update our investigation with respect to what happened at the prison at a later date. ... The prison is very aware of whatever vulnerabilities they had, and they have made efforts to correct those vulnerabilities."

Ryan confirmed during the press conference that there was another escape from Chester County Prison earlier this summer, although she did not elaborate with further details.

West Chester University, located about 6 miles from Pocopson Township, canceled classes Friday amid the search. Classes will resume Tuesday with enhanced security protocols on campus, according to the university

Bivens said authorities have been in touch with the Pennsylvania Department of Education as well as school district superintendents, but for now decisions on whether to cancel or alter school schedules remain with the school districts.

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