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Search for Danelo Cavalcante, escaped murderer, continues after eighth sighting

Personnel, aircraft from the Border Patrol are joining the manhunt on Friday for the escapee who “crab walked his way up a wall” to escape


Danelo Cavalcante “crab walked” to escape from Chester County prison on Aug. 31, 2023.


By Michael P. Rellahan
Daily Local News, West Chester, Pa.

WEST GOSHEN, Pa. — The state police spokesman briefing the media on the progress of the on-going manhunt for escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante confirmed another sighting of the man Thursday, the eighth in the week since the brazen prison break that has fascinated, frustrated and frightened people across Chester County and the nation.

Speaking at an afternoon news conference at the county’s Government Service Center, Lt. Colonel George Bivens said a resident had reported seeing someone matching Cavalcante’s description around noon on land owned by Longwood Gardens east of Route 52.

That sighting would explain the large police presence that residents reported in the Kendal-at-Longwood and Crosslands senior living communities, which abut the gardens’ open land adjacent to its popular attractions. And although Bivens continued to ask the public be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity, there were no reports made of any credible threats by the escapee. Cavalcante does not appear to be armed, he said.

Bivens said that the sighting near Longwood — which was in proximity of the spot where Cavalcante was photographed by an automatic trail camera on Monday night — means that he is still within the 8- to 10-square mile perimeter that the trooper described Wednesday as being where Cavalcante had been contained.

That area is bounded by Route 926 to the north, Route 100 to the east, Hillendale Road to the south and Route 52 to the west. Literally hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers, with helicopters and planes, advanced search technology, and old fashioned animal assets such as tracking K-9 officers and horseback-mounted law enforcement have blanketed the area over the past seven days.

“It is very important that we keep the pressure on him as we continue this manhunt,” Bivens said. “It’s been a very thorough search.”

Developments in the hunt included the arrival of personnel and aviation assets from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on Wednesday and Thursday, personnel that would begin in the hunt Friday; the release from the hospital of the state police K-9 Officer Loki from the hospital after suffering from heat exhaustion; and the search of some trains on the railroad line from Wilmington, Del., to Coatesville that turned up no sign of the fugitive.


Cavalcante, 34, a Montgomery County man who was convicted of first degree murder of his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in April 2021, escaped from the county prison on the morning of Aug. 31. He had been awaiting transfer to state prison to begin serving his life without parole sentence, but had been conferring with his attorneys on an appeal of his conviction and sentence.

Cavalcante’s was the second escape from the 1,100 inmate facility located between West Chester and Kennett Square in the past three months. The first escapee, a West Chester man, Igor Bolte, captured within 10 minutes of his flight from the prison exercise yard in May, was found hiding in a neighbor’s swimming pool.

District Attorney Deb Ryan, in response to a question about security at the prison, stressed that nearby residents had been and would continue to be alerted by various means if there is an emergency or escape at the prison. They can sign up for reverse 911 calls, and are alerted to problems by the activation of a loudspeaker siren.

The prison is conducting a review of its security measures at the facility, and the investigation into Cavalcante’s escape — captured on video surveillance as he “crab walked his way up a wall in one of the outdoor exercise yards” — had been turned over the the state Attorney General’s Office. No arrests have been made of any accomplices to Cavalcante’s escape, but a corrections officer who was in the prison’s observation tower, but missed seeing the flight, has been placed on administrative leave, according to Acting Warden Howard Holland.

Both Bivens and Ryan said they remain confident that Cavalcante, a native of Brazil who has a history of flight from authorities, would be recaptured. Ryan said that once he is, he will not be returned to the county prison, but instead make his way into the state correctional system as he was scheduled to do after Judge Patrick Carmody sentenced him to life in prison without parole for his first-degree murder conviction.

Cavalcante had been kept at the prison after his sentencing as per normal procedure so as to give his lawyer’s access to him as they prepared an appeal of his conviction and sentencing. Ryan said that the appeal, filed by Assistant Public Defenders Sameer Barkawi and Nellie Verduci the day after his escape, had been denied this week by Carmody.

Victim’s family

In response to a reporter’s question, Ryan also said that Brandao’s family — including her sister, daughter and son — were aware of his escape and have been traumatized by it, in the same way they were traumatized by her murder.

“They are terrified,” Ryan said. “They are barricaded in. They have not left their home.” Police have placed them under their protection, and they live miles away from any place where Cavalcante has been spotted.

The media presence surrounding the escape has grown since the first press conference after the escape, which featured only local reporters from area newspapers, websites, and Philadelphia television stations. Now, there are dozens of reporters from major news outlets like CNN and Fox News attending the briefings, and reporters from the New York Times and Washington Post dropping in to file accounts.

The press conferences are hardly genteel affairs. The questions are shouted, not stated quietly — in one combative sequence, a reporter with a booming voice asked Bivens, “What do you say to those who say he’s winning, not you?”

“We chased people for a lot longer than this,” Bivens responded. “We will catch him and he’s going to prison. I don’t consider that winning.”

Bivens also said that despite the 90-degree heat, long hours, and lack of success, the hundreds of law enforcement officers involved in the manhunt — perhaps the largest in the county’s history —had shown no signs of slacking.

“I have yet to hear a single complaint,” he said. “Morale is high.”

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.


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