Authorities 'getting closer' to finding escaped prisoner; residents urged to stay on alert

Danelo Cavalcante was spotted Saturday on surveillance video on the 1800 block of Lenape Road in Pocopson Township.

Monday, September 4, 2023
Authorities 'getting closer' to finding escaped prisoner
The manhunt continues for a convicted murderer who escaped the Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township, Pennsylvania.

POCOPSON TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- The manhunt continues for a convicted murderer who escaped the Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township, Pennsylvania.

Federal and local law enforcement have been searching for 34-year-old Danelo Cavalcante since his 8:50 a.m. escape on Thursday.

SEE ALSO: Timeline: Everything we know about the prison break in Chester County

He was recently spotted around 1:43 a.m. Saturday on surveillance video on the 1800 block of Lenape Road in Pocopson Township. It's about 1.5 miles from the prison.

District Attorney Deb Ryan provides an update on September 2, 2023, on the search for escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante.

He was observed wearing pants, a white T-shirt and white sneakers, and he had a backpack.

Authorities believe that he's been wearing prison-issued pants and prison-issued shorts underneath when he escaped on August 31. They do not know at this time where he obtained the backpack.

"His appearance has remained unchanged," District Attorney Deb Ryan said during a Saturday press conference.

Danelo Cavalcante was spotted on surveillance video Saturday morning on the 1800 block of Lenape Road in Pocopson Township, about 1.5 miles from the Chester County Prison.

Police have responded to well over 100 tips from neighbors in the area, including allegations of possible break-ins to residential homes in the vicinity within a one to two-mile radius of the prison.

Around 11:30 p.m. Friday, one resident reported an attempted burglary on the 1000 block of Ballintree Lane in Pocopson Township. It's still unclear if it was Cavalcante.

"We are requesting that residents in the area of Pocopson Township remain inside. Lock your doors, lock your cars. He is still considered an extremely dangerous individual. There is evidence to suggest that he's still in that local residence. We do not believe he has gotten more than one to two miles away from the prison," said Ryan.

"We believe we are getting closer to locating the suspect at this time, and we are narrowing the scope of our search," Ryan added.

Convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante escaped the Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township, Pennsylvania.

Convicted for stabbing former girlfriend

Cavalcante was convicted of first-degree murder on Aug. 16 for fatally stabbing his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, 38 times in front of her two young children in Schuylkill Township in 2021, officials said. At the time there was an active warrant for his arrest for an alleged murder that occurred in his native country of Brazil in 2017, according to Ryan.

A jury took just 15 minutes to convict Cavalcante.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole last week for the fatal stabbing and was set to be transferred to a state correctional institution in four weeks, Ryan said.

Prosecutors say he killed his girlfriend to stop her from telling police about the charges against him in Brazil. He was captured in Virginia after Brandao's killing and authorities believe he was trying to return to his home country.

When did he escape?

The escape happened around 8:50 a.m. Thursday, the Chester County District Attorney's Office says. Cavalcante was seen walking on Wawaset Road in Pocopson Township around 9:40 a.m.

How did this happen?

Authorities are still trying to figure out how he was able to escape the prison.

"There is no evidence at this time that anyone has helped to facilitate this escape, or is assisting him at this time," said DA Ryan. "We believe he is hiding here locally and he is alone."

Howard Holland, the acting warden of the prison, said Thursday an investigation is underway into how the escape happened.

"Once we knew we had an issue with an inmate not being there, we immediately followed our protocols, locked down the prison, did what we call a special count to confirm there was only one person missing," Holland said.

Anyone with information is asked to call 911 or the U.S. Marshals' Tipline at 877-WANTED-2.

There is a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to Cavalcante's capture.

What does Danelo Cavalcante look like?

Cavalcante is five feet tall and weighs 120 pounds with long, shaggy black curly hair and brown eyes.

He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with grey shorts with white sneakers. He is a Brazilian man who speaks Portuguese and Spanish and some English.

Cavalcante has family in Phoenixville and his victim's family is also in Phoenixville. Police have been in contact with them.

Authorities say after Cavalcante murdered his ex-girlfriend, his family helped him flee. Investigators are warning his family members they too will be prosecuted if they are helping him.

Danelo Cavalcante

Manhunt continues to find Cavalcante

Videos show state and local authorities combing through people's backyards as the manhunt continues.

Officials are using all their resources to search the woods, nearby creeks, and even people's homes for any sign of the escapee.

"It's not something you see on a normal basis," said Ryan Drummond from West Chester, who got a video of authorities tracking Cavalcante through his backyard.

"We all just hope that they find him, and we know that it's definitely not from a lack of effort," he said.

Storms of local and federal law enforcement are hunting for the missing fugitive, and patrolling residential streets is part of their ongoing efforts.

"It's a heavily wooded area consisting of over 271 homes. Not easy for our investigators to get to," noted U.S. Marshal Robert Clark.

As investigators say Cavalcante is extremely dangerous, residents are staying vigilant.

"I just can't believe it and I really hope that they catch him soon. I hope everybody's paying attention and they're locking their doors and staying alert," said Desiree D'Onofrio.

Investigators are hoping to track him down before he can flee further.

"We do not want him to escape the area we believe him to be in right now," said Clark.

Longwood Gardens closed

Longwood Gardens will be closed until further notice due to the search for Cavalcante.

"If you purchased tickets for today, your ticket purchase will automatically be refunded. Please allow 5 days for your refund to appear on your credit card," officials said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

Concerns over prison alert

Residents say the notification system has to be improved. They received a ChescoAlert to their cellphones at 12:15 p.m.

"At 12:06 p.m. we got text messages and alerts, why didn't they do that at 9 o'clock?" asked Randy Mims of Pocopson Township.

With the busy holiday weekend in full swing, officials are advising the public to not be scared but vigilant.

"Check your stuff, check your neighbor's stuff," said Robert Clark, the supervisor deputy marshal for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Not the first escape in Pennsylvania

It's not the first time an inmate was able to escape from a Pennsylvania lockup this year.

A homicide suspect was on the run for over a week after fleeing the Warren County jail on July 6 by climbing on exercise equipment, going through a window and scaling down a rope fashioned from jail bedding. He was caught looking dirty, wet and "worn out" from living in the wilderness to evade arrest, authorities said.

On May 7, two inmates escaped from the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center by cutting a hole in a fence surrounding a recreation yard, and were gone for nearly 19 hours before officials knew they were missing. Both we captured the next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.