Police hunting Danelo Cavalcante say it’s ‘advantage law enforcement’ as search zeroes in on township

‘Before it was advantageous to Cavalcante while he was playing tactical hide and seek in the woods,’ US Marshalls supervising deputy Robert Clark said

Andrea Blanco
Monday 11 September 2023 21:40 BST
Chester County businesses feel impact of Cavalcante manhunt

Authorities hunting for convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante have said they’re hopeful their chances of capturing him will increase now that he has moved to an urban area.

Pennsylvania State Police provided an update on the ongoing search for the escaped killer as the search for Cavalcante entered its 12th day on Monday. Lt Col George Bivens said the manhunt had moved from a containment-focused search to one where other investigative resources are being allocated across northern Chester County.

Over the weekend, Cavalcante managed to steal a van near a dairy farm in Longwood Gardens, in Popocson Township — where he had been hiding since his escape from Chester County Prison on 31 August. The fugitive drove the white 2020 Ford Transit van more than 20 miles to Phoenixville and unsuccessfully tried to get help from two former coworkers who were not home when Cavalcante showed up at their door.

The van was later found abandoned in a field behind a barn in East Nantmeal Township, where a “massive sweep” was launched on Monday with the help of 600 law enforcement personnel. Mr Bivens said that police had faced challenges securing the perimeter due to several underground tunnels and “very large drainage ditches” in wooded areas close to Longwood Gardens.

US Marshals Service supervising deputy Robert Clark said he believed Cavalcante’s mobilisation to more urban East Nantmeal Township would work to the advantage of law enforcement looking for him.

“I think the advantage switched to law enforcement. Before it was advantageous to Cavalcante while he was playing tactical hide and seek in the woods,” Mr Clark said. “Now it’s an advantage to law enforcement because he’s in an urban area and that’s what the US Marshalls do best and we’re forced-multiplied by other local and state agencies.”

Mr Bivens said that he is confident Cavalcante remains in Pennsylvania as he “does not have the resources” to leave the state.

“We don’t have a defined search area at this point,” Mr Bivens added. “We are considering and acting and investigating any tip or piece of information we receive. There are areas in Nantmeal Township that may have more of our resources.”

Mr Bivens said that he was aware of some weaknesses in the previous ten-mile perimeter, but refused to acknowledge that the several agencies collaborating in the manhunt had made any mistakes. The Lt Col went on to say that the perimeter was “strong” but not infallible.

Danelo Cavalcante escaped from Chester County Prison on 31 August. Police say he has changed his appearance (PA State Police)
On Saturday, Cavalcante showed at the door of a former coworker in Phoneixville, about 20 miles from Chester County Prison (Pennsylvania State Police)

“No perimeter is 100 per cent secure. It’s not a wall, it doesn’t have a ceiling ... all of the elements that you might use to contain someone,” he said.

For more than twelve days, Cavalcante has eluded US Marshalls, SWAT and FBI teams, state police and several local law enforcement agencies. Mr Bivens said Cavalcante’s sister Eleni Cavalcante, who was recently arrested by ICE for overstaying her visa, had offered “no value” to the investigation.

The reward offered for information that leads to Cavalcante’s capture has been increased to $25,000. Mr Bivens said that the main concern at this time is that Cavalcante has managed to steal another vehicle that he could potentially use to move farther away from East Nantmeal Township.

Authorities said that although there has been no indication that Cavalcante is armed, he is believed to be so due to his previous criminal history.

There is no longer a search perimeter in the manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante, police said (AP)
Cavalcante managed to sneak past the previous eight-mile perimeter. He is now believed to be in East Nantmeal Township (© Copyright The Philadelphia Inquirer 2023)

Mr Bivens said that an exchange over doorbell video camera between Cavalcante and a former coworker on Saturday day night will not be immediately released.

The individual was not home when Cavalcante knocked on his door and he alerted authorities after reviewing the footage, Mr Bivens said. The fugitive was reportedly “urgent” but “friendly” when he requested help from the individual, who had not had contact with Cavalcante in several years.

Doorbell video images released on Sunday showed Cavalcante to be now clean-shaven and wearing a green hooded sweatshirt, black baseball cap, green prison pants and white shoes.

Authorities have warned the public that Cavalcante is believed to be “extremely dangerous” and have asked anyone who comes in contact with him to immediately call 911.

Cavalcante climbed up a wall by crab-walking up from the recreation yard, climbing over razor wire and then running across a roof before jumping to the ground — the same method an inmate used in May before he was captured within minutes.

Cavalcante’s escape went undetected for more than an hour until guards took a headcount.

The jailbreak is being investigated by the state’s attorney’s office and a prison tower guard who failed to report it has already been fired.

Anyone with information about Cavalcante’s current whereabouts is asked to call 911 or the US Marshals’ Tipline at 877-WANTED-2.

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