Hunt for escaped Pennsylvania killer hiding in woods leads schools to close doors

Two school districts near Philadelphia closed campuses on Tuesday after an escaped murderer was spotted by surveillance cameras traversing nearby woods and public spaces, authorities said.

The latest images of Danelo Cavalcante, a 34-year-old killer who slipped out of custody on Thursday, were captured on a trail camera at Longwood Gardens, a public esplanade in Chester County, on Monday night, officials said.

“I am confident that he will slip up. He did here, he walked into a trail cam, didn’t know it,” state police Lt. Col. George Bivens told reporters Tuesday.

Cavalcante escaped from Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township. His method of getting outside prison barriers was part of an ongoing investigation.

More than 200 law enforcement officers searched for the murderer in shifts in recent days, Bivens said. The FBI was assisting, he said.

U.S. Marshals Service Supervisory Agent Robert Clark said a $10,000 reward composed of money from his agency as well as from Chester County government is available for anyone whose tip leads to Calvalcante’s capture.

With the convict still on the lam, the Unionville-Chadds Ford and Kennett Consolidated School Districts both said there will be no on-campus instruction on Tuesday.

The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District told students to check in with teachers via Google Meet on Tuesday morning, in advance of their “Flexible Instructional Day (FID).”

The Kennett Consolidated School District announced that all campuses and offices will be closed on Tuesday “out of an abundance of caution.”

Cavalcante is also wanted for a murder case in his native Brazil and police have recorded a message from his mother in Portuguese, pleading with her son to surrender.

Helicopters and police cars patrolling the search areas are blasting that audio in hopes Cavalcante hears it and heeds his mom’s advice, officials said.

Danelo Cavalcante in the clothes he wore during his escape.
Danelo Cavalcante in the clothes he wore during his escape.Chester County District Attorney

Investigators are in contact with multiple loved ones and friends of the escapee, hoping to unearth any clue about where Cavalcante might be hiding or seeking to go.

“Rest assured that any family, friends, associates, contacts even from jail, we have run all of those things out and and we continue to run those out looking for anything that might be helpful,” Bivens said.

Searchers are struggling to navigate the thick terrain where they believe Cavalcante is hiding.

“What you have are significant parcels of wooded area with a lot of undergrowth, so thick that our searchers can’t be more than a couple of yards apart, where at times they lose sight of one another,” Bivens said.

“There are a lot places that someone can hide.”

In the latest images of Cavalcante, he has not done anything to significantly change his appearance, police said.

But he has picked up a backpack, “sling-type duffle bag” and a hooded sweat shirt since escaping, Bivens said.

Investigators believe Cavalcante broke into a car or home to get those supplies.

“He’s clearly in escape mode and he’s desperate,” Bivens said.”

Amid the manhunt, authorities were investigating any possible lapses or facility weak points that may have contributed to the escape. It was too early in the process to say exactly how Calvalcante got out, the lieutenant colonel indicated.

On May 19, another inmate, identified as Igor Bolte, 30, allegedly climbed an exercise area wall and made it outside the Chester County facility as a guard was distracted by an argument on a nearby basketball court on the grounds, according to court records.

Bolte, who was captured in town roughly an hour later — soaking wet after a dip in an area pool — told investigators he used his rock climbing skills to ascend the wall, the documents state. The inmate faces trial Oct. 9 for the alleged escape and is presumed innocent.

A county spokesperson indicated it’s too soon to say if Calvalcante’s and Bolte’s actions were similar, repeating only that a probe into the latest breach was ongoing.

Police on Tuesday reminded residents within several miles of the Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township to lock cars and all other doors, especially of outhouses, supply sheds and other buildings outside their main homes.

“It is important we keep pressure on him as we continue this hunt,” Bivens said. “We pressure him to not allow him the luxury of rest.”

Cavalcante was convicted of first-degree murder on Aug. 16 for fatally stabbing a 33-year-old former girlfriend and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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