Escaped Chester County prisoner seen on trail cam at Longwood Gardens; search prompts school closures

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District and the Kennett Consolidated School District will be closed Tuesday.

Danelo Cavalcante appears in surveillance footage on the left; on the right is Cavalcante's mugshot

Danelo Cavalcante was captured on surveillance footage at Longwood Gardens, authorities said. (6abc)

This story originally appeared on 6abc.

Authorities say there have been additional sightings of the escaped inmate who has been the center of a six-day manhunt in Chester County.

During a news conference on Tuesday morning, Pennsylvania State Police released a new photo of 34-year-old Danelo Cavalcante.

Police said Cavalcante was captured on a trail camera on the property of Longwood Gardens on Monday night.

Federal and local law enforcement have been searching for Cavalcante since his 8:50 a.m. escape from the Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township on Thursday.

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Authorities say there have been six credible sightings since the escape. Five occurred within the search area near the intersection of Rt. 926 and Rt. 52, north on Rt. 52 to Parkersville Road, southeast to Rt. 926 and west to the intersection of Rt. 926 and Rt. 52 in Pocopson Township.

The most recent was Monday night when Cavalcante was caught on a trail camera on the property of Longwood Gardens at 8:21 p.m. and 9:33 p.m.

Longwood Gardens is outside of the established perimeter and authorities are now shifting the search to include areas south of Rt. 1.

Lt. Col. George Bevins, deputy commissioner of operations for the Pennsylvania State Police, said at a news conference Tuesday morning that Cavalcante has now obtained a hooded sweatshirt and a duffel bag in addition to a backpack. But the photos confirm Cavalcante has not changed his appearance.

It is not yet known where Cavalcante got a hold of the bags or additional clothing.

At approximately 6 p.m. Monday, authorities were called in on reports of another possible sighting of Cavalcante, but he was nowhere to be found.

Bevins said Cavalcante was spotted Sunday afternoon from a distance by a state trooper who gave chase but lost him.

Cavalcante was captured on video around 1:43 a.m. Saturday, on the 1800 block of Lenape Road in Pocopson Township. It’s about 1.5 miles from the prison.

Two Pennsylvania school districts announced buildings will be closed Tuesday as a result of the ongoing manhunt.

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District said the district will operate on a Flexible Instructional Day (FID), and the Kennett Consolidated School District announced it will be closed Tuesday.

“We were informed early this morning by law enforcement that the search situation has evolved and out of an abundance of caution, schools and offices will be closed today,” Kennett Consolidated School District officials said in a statement.

How residents can help

Authorities say the community can help in several ways, including familiarizing themselves with the photograph of the prisoner.

Residents are being asked to secure their general property and to check on their neighbors.

“If they’re not at home, please let us know so we can check their property and their absence,” said Bivens.

Residents should also be checking security cameras and call police if there’s anything suspicious.

Cavalcante’s mother aiding the investigation

Authorities say a recording of the prisoner’s mother is being broadcast from helicopters flying over the search area.

“It’s done in Spanish or actually Portuguese, and it’s being broadcast in an effort to facilitate his peaceful surrender,” said Bivens.

West Chester University remains open

West Chester University says there will be an increased police presence on campus as the search for the prisoner continues.

“Out of an abundance of caution, all buildings will continue to require a WCU ID for access or a physical key. All building access will be through the main entry of the buildings. Do not forget your WCU ID when seeking access to all buildings. Continue to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Classes will be in session on Tuesday, September 5,” the university posted on Facebook.

Convicted for stabbing former girlfriend

Cavalcante was convicted of first-degree murder on Aug. 16 for fatally stabbing his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, 38 times in front of her two young children in Schuylkill Township in 2021, officials said. At the time there was an active warrant for his arrest for an alleged murder that occurred in his native country of Brazil in 2017, according to Ryan.

A jury took just 15 minutes to convict Cavalcante.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole last week for the fatal stabbing and was set to be transferred to a state correctional institution in four weeks, Ryan said.

Prosecutors say he killed his girlfriend to stop her from telling police about the charges against him in Brazil. He was captured in Virginia after Brandao’s killing and authorities believe he was trying to return to his home country.

When did he escape?

The escape happened around 8:50 a.m. Thursday, the Chester County District Attorney’s Office says. Cavalcante was seen walking on Wawaset Road in Pocopson Township around 9:40 a.m.

How did this happen?

Authorities are still trying to figure out how he was able to escape the prison.

“There is no evidence at this time that anyone has helped to facilitate this escape, or is assisting him at this time,” said DA Ryan. “We believe he is hiding here locally and he is alone.”

Howard Holland, the acting warden of the prison, said Thursday an investigation is underway into how the escape happened.

“Once we knew we had an issue with an inmate not being there, we immediately followed our protocols, locked down the prison, did what we call a special count to confirm there was only one person missing,” Holland said.

Anyone with information is asked to call 911 or the U.S. Marshals’ Tipline at 877-WANTED-2.

There is a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to Cavalcante’s capture.

What does Danelo Cavalcante look like?

Cavalcante is five feet tall and weighs 120 pounds with long, shaggy black curly hair and brown eyes.

He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with grey shorts with white sneakers. He is a Brazilian man who speaks Portuguese and Spanish and some English.

Cavalcante has family in Phoenixville and his victim’s family is also in Phoenixville. Police have been in contact with them.

Authorities say after Cavalcante murdered his ex-girlfriend, his family helped him flee. Investigators are warning his family members they too will be prosecuted if they are helping him.

Not the first escape in Pennsylvania

It’s not the first time an inmate was able to escape from a Pennsylvania lockup this year.

A homicide suspect was on the run for over a week after fleeing the Warren County jail on July 6 by climbing on exercise equipment, going through a window and scaling down a rope fashioned from jail bedding. He was caught looking dirty, wet and “worn out” from living in the wilderness to evade arrest, authorities said.

On May 7, two inmates escaped from the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center by cutting a hole in a fence surrounding a recreation yard, and were gone for nearly 19 hours before officials knew they were missing. Both were captured the next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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