Danelo Cavalcante search expands more than 20 miles from prison after he stole dairy farm van

Cavalcante has managed, yet again, to sneak past the search perimeter

Andrea Blanco
Monday 11 September 2023 17:44 BST
Chester County businesses feel impact of Cavalcante manhunt

Pennsylvania authorities have been forced to expand the search perimeter in their manhunt for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante after he stole a transit van and drove to the homes of former associates.

Cavalcante, 34, remains on the run more than 10 days after he escaped from Chester County Prison on 31 August. Pennsylvania State Police are facing growing scrutiny after it was confirmed on Sunday that Cavalcante had managed, yet again, to sneak past the search perimeter.

Lt Col George Bivens said that the fugitive stole a van from a dairy farm near Longwood Gardens botanical park, where the search was initially focused and a 10-mile perimeter had been established. Cavalcante used the van to travel to Phoenixville, a town roughly 20 miles away from Chester County Prison and 25 miles away from the botanical garden.

In Phoenixville, Cavalcante visited the home of two former associates. Around 9.50pm on Saturday, he knocked on the door of a former coworker who was not home and later alerted authorities when he reviewed his doorbell camera footage.

Fifteen minutes later, Cavalcante showed up at the home of another individual and law enforcement was eventually notified of the incident. The stolen van was then discovered by law enforcement in a field behind a barn in East Nantmeal Township on Sunday morning.

Lt Col Bivens said he believed Cavalcante abandoned the vehicle at least in part because it was low on fuel. Authorities are concerned that he would attempt to obtain another vehicle or has already done so.

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

The manhunt has been repeatedly expanded as Cavalcante has managed to elude hundreds of law enforcement officers for more than a week. Mr Bivens said that some underground tunnels and “very large drainage ditches” made it very difficult to completely secure the search area.

This image provided by the Pennsylvania State Police shows Danelo Cavalcante (Pennsylvania State Police)
Cavalcante visited the home of a former associate on Saturday (Pennsylvania State Police)
Cavalcante stole a van he used to travel more than 20 miles from the prison (Chester County DA)

“No perimeter is 100 per cent secure. We do the best we can. Most times we’re able to secure it adequately,” Mr Bivens said on Sunday. “You couple that with weather, aviation being down during the night ... No excuses, we took over the responsibility and we [are giving it] an exceptionally good effort.”

Mr Bivens asked Chester County residents to be vigilant and make sure they do not leave their keys inside their vehicles as Cavalcante will “undoubtedly take any opportunity to aid himself”.

State police also confirmed on Sunday that Cavalcante’s sister Eleni Cavalcante was arrested by ICE over “some immigration issues”. Mr Bivens refused to comment on whether she is believed to have aided Cavalcante.

“He’s very determined, we are even more determined. He will be held to justice and we are going to bring him back into custody,” Mr Bivens added.

Authorities have been forced to expand the search perimeter in the manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante (AP)
PA State Troopers, US Border Patrol, Chester County Emergency Management, and FBI collaborate on the intergovernmental manhunt for Cavalcante (© Copyright The Philadelphia Inquirer 2023)

Cavalcante escaped while awaiting transfer to state prison. Last month, he was convicted for the April 2021 murder of his former girlfriend Deborah Brandao and sentenced to life in prison.

US Marshalls, the FBI, and SWAT teams have joined the full-scale search for Cavalcante. Police had been planning to use close to 600 personnel Monday for “one massive sweep” of the search area, Mr Bivens said.

Local and federal police and the state’s Crime Stoppers have offered a combined $20,000 reward for information that leads to Cavalcante’s capture.

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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