Editor’s Note: Find the latest coverage of the manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante here.
The manhunt for Danelo Cavalcante that has communities in southeastern Pennsylvania on high alert has shifted after the escaped murderer was spotted just south of the original search area, state police said Tuesday.
Cavalcante escaped from Chester County Prison on Thursday morning and authorities began by scouring a heavily wooded area in Pocopson Township and Chester County within 2 miles of the prison – a rural area around 30 miles west of Philadelphia.
Law enforcement has now expanded the perimeter of the search after a security camera on Monday evening recorded Cavalcante at a popular botanical gardens that is almost 3 miles away from the correctional facility.
“We believe he is just south of that (original search) radius and that’s why, again, we’ve shifted that perimeter now to include that area,” Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said during a news conference Tuesday.
Cavalcante was spotted by a security camera Monday at Longwood Gardens at 8:21 p.m. He was walking north and was sighted again at 9:33 p.m., this time heading back south.
While Cavalcante’s appearance was unchanged, Bivens said he had obtained some items, including a backpack, a “duffel-sling type pack,” and a hooded sweatshirt. Cavalcante is described as a 5-foot, 120-pound man with light skin, shaggy black hair and brown eyes.
Longwood Gardens boasts over 200 acres of “lush, formal gardens, open meadows, and winding paths.” The attraction was closed Tuesday as police searched the property and surrounding area, where the air feels much hotter than the low 90s on the thermometer. Officials said Tuesday evening the gardens will also be closed Wednesday.
Cavalcante, 34, was convicted of first-degree murder on August 16 in the killing of his former girlfriend, 33-year-old Deborah Brandão, in 2021. He was sentenced to life without parole.
There had been five “credible sightings” of Cavalcante within the previous search radius, Bivens said.
Kennett Consolidated School District, which is about 9 miles from the prison, and Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, about 5 miles from the prison, were closed Tuesday.
In a message on its website, the Kennett district said it will be closed again Wednesday.
The Unionville-Chadds Ford District sent a message to parents that five of six schools would be open Wednesday but later updated its website to say: “We are aware that circumstances have changed since our last message went out. We will review conditions in the morning and provide an update at 5:00 a.m.”
Police issued a Reverse 911 call Tuesday morning to residents within 3 miles of the area where Cavalcante was spotted. Authorities have advised residents to keep their doors and cars locked, warning that Cavalcante is extremely dangerous.
Bivens said if his own home were near the search area, “even while I was in the house, I would have my doors locked.”
While the new search zone is more open than the heavily wooded area police were previously focused on, Bivens said there are plenty of places for Cavalcante to hide.
About 200 to 250 people are on the ground at any given time, aiding with search efforts. Police are trying to put pressure on the inmate, who they believe seized on an opportunity to get out of jail and is now “winging it.”
“You’re dealing with someone who is desperate and doesn’t want to be caught,” Bivens said.
Sightings after escape
Ryan Drummond of Pocopson Township told CNN affiliate WPVI he believes he saw Cavalcante inside his home. Drummond said he got up to investigate after hearing a noise from downstairs at around 11:45 p.m.