Manhunt widens for Chester County murder convict; some schools closed for second day

Danelo Cavalcante was last spotted on the property of Longwood Gardens on Monday night.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Manhunt widens for Chester County murder convict; some schools closed
Manhunt widens for Chester County murder convict; some schools closed for second day

POCOPSON TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Authorities have moved and expanded the search area for a convicted murderer who escaped from the Chester County Prison last week, after he was spotted on a trail camera at one of the nation's premier botanical gardens.

Danelo Cavalcante, 34, has been spotted multiple times since he escaped Thursday from the Chester County Prison at 8:50 a.m.

Action News has learned the convicted killer likely scaled up the prison roof and then jumped down to a less secure area to break free.

TIMELINE | How did a murder convict escape the Chester County Prison? Here's what we know

Another inmate, Igor Bolte, escaped the prison back on May 19, and sources tell ABC News Cavalcante used a similar method to leave the facility.

Danelo Cavalcante

Bolte, 30, was in the exercise yard of the Chester County Prison when he scaled the wall until reaching the roof.

"Once at the roof (Bolte) is able to use an exposed I-beam to climb up onto the roof of the building," a criminal complaint says. "Surveillance footage from the main entrance area of the prison captures the defendant climbing down from the roof of the building and running past the security station outside the main fence of the prison."

Bolte was captured five minutes after his escape, according to court documents.

A county official told Action News that after Bolte's escape, prison officials brought in security consultants to assess the situation. Additional razor wire was installed along the perimeter of the exercise area where Bolte escaped.

Community on edge

The expanded search spurred two nearby school districts to cancel classes Tuesday and Wednesday as a precaution, and authorities urged residents to keep their homes and vehicles locked.

The Kennett Consolidated School District will be closed for a second day on Wednesday due to the search for Cavalcante.

SEE ALSO: Pocopson Township resident believes escaped killer Danelo Cavalcante was in his home

Unionville-Chadds Ford School District says it will also close schools and officers on Wednesday. All schools will have a Flexible Instructional Day, according to the district's website.

Joe Annechino, of Unionville, said he used to leave his garage door open at night. No longer.

"I just put a couple of new bolts on two doors. I keep the car locked. So, yes, unfortunately, I have changed my way of thinking about my exposure to whatever," he said.

And Kathleen Marcozzi told Action News she's been focused on the news coverage.

"We've been watching this for five days, we were not as concerned because it wasn't in our area. Now it's across the street," she said.

Cavalcante spotted in Longwood Gardens

The last known sighting of Cavalcante came Monday night when he was spotted on a privately-owned motion-activated wildlife trail camera on the property of Longwood Gardens.

Police released images from that camera on Tuesday morning.

These images of escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante were captured from a camera on the property of Longwood Gardens on the night of September 4, 2023.

One image of Cavalcante shows him walking north at 8:21 p.m. and another photo shows him walking south through the same area at 9:33 p.m.

Longwood Gardens is outside of the established perimeter, so police are now shifting the search to include areas south of Rt. 1.

Bevins said Cavalcante has now obtained a hooded sweatshirt and a duffel bag in addition to a backpack, but the photos confirm Cavalcante has not changed his appearance.

Based on the images, it's now believed that Cavalcante has broken into either a home, garage or car.

"Please secure homes outbuildings and vehicles. Cavalcante has clearly gotten supplies and we want to minimize his ability to get anything more," said Lt. Col. George Bevins, deputy commissioner of operations for the Pennsylvania State Police, at Tuesday's news conference.

Longwood Gardens is closed on Tuesdays. The business said it would be closed on Wednesday due to the search.

Murder convict slips perimeter

Cavalcante's sighting at Longwood Gardens means he slipped the original perimeter established by law enforcement.

"He found a point that he could squeeze through that perimeter and he traveled south. We'll now expand that perimeter and move it so that we can try and encapsulate him again," Bevins said.

SEE ALSO: Escaped killer's mom pleads with him to surrender as new sightings emerge in search: Police

As for how he got through, state police say the terrain seems to be helping Cavalcante hide.

Terrain may be helping escaped murder convict hide

"Obviously, I wish we would have been able to capture him without him getting through that perimeter, but it's also not shocking. It's dark, it's a large area. Not to make excuses - it's difficult terrain," said Bevins.

Another thing state police talked about: the undergrowth.

They say it's so thick, searchers can only go a few feet before losing sight of each other and they have to hack through it.

Authorities provide update on manhunt for escaped Chester County prisoner as search enters 6th day

Multiple sightings of Cavalcante

Authorities say there have been multiple credible sightings since the escape.

At approximately 6 p.m. Monday, authorities were called in on reports of another possible sighting of Cavalcante, but he was nowhere to be found.

Bevins said Cavalcante was spotted Sunday afternoon from a distance by a state trooper who gave chase but lost him.

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

And hours before that, Ryan Drummond claims he saw Cavalcante inside his home on Friday night around 11:45 p.m.

Police arrived but the man escaped back into the thick wood and brush after taking some food.

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.

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 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.

How residents can help

Authorities say the community can help in several ways, including familiarizing themselves with the photograph of the prisoner.

Residents are being asked to secure their general property and to check on their neighbors.

"If they're not at home, please let us know so we can check their property and their absence," said Bivens.

Residents should also be checking security cameras and call police if there's anything suspicious.

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.

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