Editor’s Note: Follow CNN’s coverage of Pennsylvania’s manhunt for escaped prisoners
A Pennsylvania hitman who escaped from prison nearly two weeks ago has been spotted again, this time with authorities warning he is “possibly armed with a weapon.”
Danelo Cavalcante was spotted in Chester County’s South Coventry Township, about 20 miles north of the prison he escaped from, according to an alert sent to area residents by Chester County 911 Monday night.
“Pennsylvania State Police are receiving reports of escaped inmate Danelo Cavalcante in the area of Ridge Rd/Coventryville Rd/Daisy Point Rd in the South Coventry Borough, possibly armed with a weapon,” the alert reads. “Residents in the area are asked to lock all exterior doors and windows, secure vehicles and stay indoors.”
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper James P. McKee previously told CNN that there had been a sighting Monday evening but provided no further details.
It’s the first report of a sighting since the weekend, when Cavalcante managed to sneak through a police search perimeter, stole a van, changed his appearance and was spotted more than 20 miles away before abandoning the vehicle in East Nantmeal Township.
“We are evaluating, acting on and investigating any information or tips we receive,” Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said at a news conference Monday afternoon, noting that the reward for information leading to Cavalcante’s capture had been raised at $25,000.
This weekend’s developments dramatically altered the search, which had been focused since Cavalcante’s Aug. 31 escape on the area immediately surrounding the Chester County Jail, about 30 miles west of Philadelphia, where he was later held at his conviction last month for first-degree murder.
But on Saturday evening, Cavalcante stole a 2020 Ford Transit van three-quarters of a mile from the search perimeter and traveled about 25 miles north to the East Pikeland Township home of an acquaintance he had met several years ago, he said Bivens in a Sunday conference. Press conference.
He spoke to the acquaintance via a Ring doorbell camera, which captured his new clean-shaven appearance, but the person was not home and did not answer to meet Cavalcante, Bivens said.
Cavalcante then tried to contact another acquaintance in the nearby Phoenixville area. That person also wasn’t home but called police after a resident saw the escaped inmate, according to Bivens.
On Monday, Bivens warned anyone thinking of assisting the fugitive to do otherwise, and instead help law enforcement facilitate his capture.
“He needs more help. She needs long-term resources and is looking for them,” Bivens said Monday.
Cavalcante’s sister – who Bivens said had overstayed her visa – was arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“She has chosen not to provide assistance and, because she is in overstay status, she has been placed in deportation proceedings and is being detained at this time,” Bivens said.
“She was uncooperative, so there was no value in law enforcement holding her here at this point,” he said.
Eleni Cavalcante testified in her brother’s murder trial, according to Chester County officials.
Cavalcante escaped from the Chester County Jail just days after being sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, 33-year-old Deborah Brandão. He left by “walking like a crab” between two walls, climbing a fence and crossing barbed wire, putting the community in difficulty and closing schools as he repeatedly eluded capture.
Cavalcante’s time on the run likely “exceeded investigators’ expectations,” said John Miller, a law enforcement chief and CNN intelligence analyst. Most escaped prisoners are captured within 24 hours, and most of them within two miles, he said.
But Cavalcante fled almost two weeks ago. And his movements Saturday shifted the geographic focus of the search to the area around East Nantmeal Township in northern Chester County, where the stolen van was found abandoned in a field behind a barn, apparently having run out of gas .
“You also have to remember that the stakes are different for him,” Miller said. “He’s desperate and willing to give it his all, because if he goes back, he’ll go to a place he can’t get out of.”
Stealing the vehicle was a ‘game changer’
Police “were everywhere” Sunday in East Nantmeal Township, said Rick Silvia, the owner of Journey’s End Farm, who was hosting an equestrian event.
“They started to reverse course and block the perimeter of our property,” Silvia told CNN. “The last thing we heard last night was that they were waiting for more manpower and were doing a shoulder-to-shoulder search in the cornfield.”
There was less police presence Monday, he said.
Meanwhile, Nantmeal United Methodist Church has closed its doors during Sunday services, its pastor, Dennis Keen, told CNN. It was an unusual move, taken for safety precautions, Keen said. His parishioners are worried.
Bivens on Monday reiterated his request for community members to familiarize themselves with the latest photos of Cavalcante, review surveillance footage and secure their homes and vehicles. The owner of the van used by the fugitive, a local dairy, did not realize it had been stolen, authorities previously said. The keys had been left inside.
“We remain concerned that Cavalcante will attempt to steal another vehicle to facilitate his escape,” he said. “It is imperative that anyone with information about Cavalcante contact us immediately so that we can act on that information in a timely manner.”
Cavalcante, who had previously been shown in photos with a beard, has since changed his appearance by shaving his face, Bivens said. He also received a green hooded sweater.
It is unclear how Cavalcante managed to get past the search perimeter set up by authorities around Longwood Gardens, where several sightings of the fugitive had been reported in the days following his escape.
“No perimeter is 100% secure — ever,” Bivens told reporters Sunday, a sentiment he echoed Monday.
U.S. Marshals Service Deputy Supervisor Robert Clark said Monday he believed the environment around the Chester County Jail gave Cavalcante an advantage, calling it “very difficult terrain.”
“But now we’re going to prepare for the long game, and the long game is what we do best,” Clark said. “The US Marshals Service, as the colonel said, investigates fugitives every day. This is a manhunt, and to us that just means it’s a longer, more well-resourced fugitive investigation. So we are prepared.”
Miller, the CNN analyst, similarly pointed out that the police perimeter does not consist of a “solid line of cops in a giant square.” Escaping was “a game of patience” for Cavalcante, who is “on the run, literally for his life.”
“The turning point for him was stealing the truck, because it gave him distance,” Miller said. “In fact, he allowed him to gain distance until he ran out of gas. He didn’t run out of gas.”
A second game changer would be to find a partner to help him, Miller added, perhaps by providing him with a phone, another vehicle or helping him change his appearance again.
The authorities’ focus, Miller said, “will be less on that box that he came out of, and more on who exists in his universe that he might reach.”
Chronology of known sightings of Cavalcante
In addition to Brandão’s murder – he allegedly stabbed her 38 times in front of her two young children – Cavalcante is also wanted in a 2017 murder case in Brazil, his native country, a U.S. official said Marshals Service.
“Clearly he has been in residences, businesses and vehicles — at least one — that I can’t say what may or may not have been in any of those locations that he had access to,” Bivens said Sunday.
Pennsylvania State Police said there have been several credible sightings of the escaped inmate. Here’s what we know about some of the places police say Cavalcante has been so far:
• August 31st: Cavalcante is seen on jail surveillance video escaping from the Chester County Jail. The video showed him “walking like a crab” between two walls in a courtyard – placing his hands on one wall and his feet on another – and swinging out of sight, said the prison’s acting director, Howard Holland. Cavalcante then went through a roof, climbed over another fence and went through barbed wire, Holland said.
• September 1st: Ryan Drummond, who lives in the township where the prison is located, said Cavalcante entered his Pocopson Township home and grabbed food before leaving, CNN affiliate WPVI reported.
• September 2: Cavalcante was spotted on surveillance video about 1.5 miles from the prison, authorities said.
• September 4th: A security camera recorded the fugitive in Longwood Gardens, about 3 miles from the prison, authorities said.
• Tuesday: An area resident reported seeing Cavalcante in a creek bed on the resident’s property, Bivens said.
• Wednesday: A camera image showed Cavalcante in or around Longwood Gardens, but officials became aware of this sighting Thursday evening, according to Bivens.
• Friday: Authorities reported two sightings of Cavalcante within the search area. The area included Longwood Gardens.
•Saturday: Cavalcante stole the van and at 9.52 pm local time, he went to the house of his first acquaintance where he was filmed by the doorbell video. He then went to another old associate’s home at 10:07 p.m. in the Phoenixville area, according to Bivens, who said authorities learned of the sightings around 12:30 a.m. Sunday.
• Sunday: The stolen van was found abandoned in a field behind a barn in East Nantmeal Township at 10:40 a.m.
CNN’s Nicole Grether, Jessica Xing, Emma Tucker, Samantha Beech, Aya Elamroussi, Brian Todd and Aaron Cooper, Michelle Watson, Jessica Prater and Polo Sandoval contributed to this report.
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