Pocoson, PA TWP. — The hunt intensifies for a convicted murderer who escaped from the Chester County Jail in Pokopson, Pennsylvania.
Federal and local law enforcement have been searching for Danelo Cavalcante, 34, since he escaped from prison at 8:50 a.m. Thursday.
Authorities said there have been four credible sightings since fleeing in a search area near the Rt. intersection. 926 and RT. 52, north of RT. 52 to Parkersville Road, Rt SE. 926 west to Rt junction. 926 and RT. 52 in Pokopson Township.
A state trooper spotted Cavalkant from a distance on Sunday afternoon and chased him but lost him, Pennsylvania State Police Deputy Chief Lt. Col. George Bevins said at a news conference Monday afternoon.
“We have secured the area and continue to search aggressively and despite the many challenges we are confident that if he is there we will find him,” Bivens said.
Cavalkant was captured on video in the 1800 block of Lenape Road in Pokopson Township around 1:43 a.m. Saturday. About 1.5 miles from the jail.
He was observed wearing pants, a white T-shirt and white sneakers, and carrying a backpack.
Authorities believe he was wearing prison-issued pants and prison-issued shorts underneath when he escaped on Aug. 31. They don’t know where he got the backpack from at this time.
“His physical appearance has not changed,” said District Attorney Deb Ryan.
“I think there might be someone downstairs”
Police have responded to more than 100 reports from neighbors in the area, including allegations of possible break-ins at nearby homes within a one- to two-mile radius of the jail.
Ryan Drummond claims he saw Cavalcante in his home at around 11:45 p.m.
“I woke up my wife and said, ‘I think there might be someone downstairs,'” Drummond recalled.
Drummond said he rushed upstairs to the landing after hearing rustling downstairs.
“I decided to flip the switch three, four, five times, pause, and then he flipped the light switch from downstairs. That was the ‘oh my god, this guy’s right there’ moment,” Damond said.
Drummond said he watched Cavalkant walk out of the house after making sure the kids slept in his bed.
“I saw him walk across our living room from the kitchen, open that door and walk out. He was wearing a white shirt and carrying a bag,” he added.
After police arrived, the man fled back into dense woods and bushes after eating some food.
“Peaches, apples, peas were gone. We had a bunch of veal steak knives and he could have taken one of them,” Damond said.
Investigators urged residents to remain vigilant during the search.
“We are asking residents of the Pokopson Township area to stay indoors. Lock doors, lock cars. He is still considered an extremely dangerous individual. There is evidence that he is still in local residences. We do not believe he has been away from prison. It’s more than a mile or two,” District Attorney Ryan said.
How residents can help
Authorities say the community can help in a number of ways, including familiarizing themselves with photos of the inmates.
Residents are being asked to protect their property and check on neighbours.
“If they’re not home, please let us know so we can check their belongings and absences,” Bivens said.
Residents should also check security cameras and call the police if they see anything suspicious.
Cavalkante’s mother aiding investigation
Helicopters flying over the search area were playing audio recordings of the prisoner’s mother, authorities said.
“It was made in Spanish or actually Portuguese and aired to facilitate his peaceful surrender,” Bivens said.
West Chester University remains open
West Chester University said the number of police officers on campus will increase as the search for prisoners continues.
“Out of an abundance of caution, all buildings will continue to require a WCU ID or physical key for entry. All building access will be through the building’s main entrance. When seeking access to all buildings, do not forget your WCU ID. Continue to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Classes will begin Tuesday, September 5,” the university posted on Facebook.
Jailed for stabbing ex-girlfriend
Cavalkant was convicted Aug. 16 of first-degree murder for murdering two of his ex-girlfriend Deborah Brandao in Schuylkill in 2021, officials said. stabbed her to death 38 times in the face of a child. Ryan said he had a valid arrest warrant at the time in connection with a 2017 murder in his native Brazil.
The jury took just 15 minutes to convict Cavalkan.
Ryan said he was sentenced to life without parole last week for the fatal stabbing and will be transferred to a state corrections facility within four weeks.
Prosecutors said he killed his girlfriend to prevent her from speaking to police about the allegations against him in Brazil. After Brandau was killed, he was arrested in Virginia and authorities believed he was trying to return to his home country.
When did he escape?
The escape occurred around 8:50 a.m. Thursday, according to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.Cavalcante was seen walking on Wawaset Road in Pokopson Township at around 9:40 a.m.
How did this happen?
Authorities are still trying to figure out how he escaped.
“There is no evidence at this time that anyone helped facilitate his escape, or was assisting him,” said District Attorney Ryan. “We believe he is hiding locally and that he is alone.”
Howard Holland, the prison’s acting warden, said Thursday that an investigation into the escape is ongoing.
“As soon as we knew that a prisoner was not in the prison, we immediately followed the protocol and locked down the prison and did what is called a special inventory to confirm that only one person is missing,” Holland said.
Anyone with information is urged to call 911 or the US Marshals Reporting Hotline at 877-WANTED-2.
A $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to Cavalcante’s capture.
What does Danello Cavalcante look like?
Cavalkant is 5 feet tall and 120 pounds, with shaggy black curly hair and brown eyes.
He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, gray shorts and white sneakers. He is Brazilian and speaks Portuguese, Spanish and some English.
Cavalkant has family in Phoenixville, as does the victim’s family. Police have been in touch with them.
After Cavalkant murdered his ex-girlfriend, his family helped him flee, authorities said. Investigators warned his family that they, too, would be prosecuted if they helped him.
“We all hope they find him”
Video showed state and local authorities searching people’s backyards as the manhunt continued.
Officials are using all their resources to scour woods, nearby creeks and even people’s homes for signs of the fugitive.
“It’s not something you normally see,” said Ryan Drummond, from West Chester, who had received video of authorities stalking Cavalkant in his backyard.
“We’re all just hoping they’ll find him, and we know it’s definitely not for lack of effort,” he said.
Patrols of residential streets are part of an ongoing effort by local and federal law enforcement to search for the missing fugitive.
“This is a wooded area with more than 271 homes. It was not easy for our investigators to get to,” U.S. Marshal Robert Clark said.
As investigators say, Cavalcante is extremely dangerous and residents are on alert.
“I can’t believe it and I really hope they catch him soon. I hope everyone stays focused, locks their doors and stays vigilant,” Desiree D’Onofrio said.
Investigators hope to find him before he escapes further.
“We don’t want him to flee the area where we think he is now,” Clark said.
This isn’t the first jailbreak in Pennsylvania
This isn’t the first time an inmate has escaped from a Pennsylvania jail this year.
A homicide suspect escaped the Warren County Jail on July 6 by climbing onto exercise equipment, through a window and down a rope made from prison bedding, and remained on the run for more than a week. He was found looking dirty, wet and “tired” after he was found living in the wilderness to evade arrest, authorities said.
Officials didn’t know they were missing after two inmates dug a hole in the fence surrounding the casino to escape the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center on May 7 and disappeared for nearly 19 hours. Both were captured the next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.