Convicted killer who escaped Pennsylvania prison spotted more than 20 miles from search area and changed his appearance, police say

Danelo Cavalcante, the convicted killer who escaped from a Pennsylvania prison, was seen overnight Saturday more than 20 miles from the search area where he was last reportedly sighted, according to state police.

“During the late evening and overnight hours, Cavalcante was reportedly seen in the northern Chester County area near Phoenixville,” Pennsylvania State Police said in a news release early Sunday, placing the fugitive about 25 miles northeast of the county prison from which he escaped on August 31.

He was no longer thought to be in that area by late Sunday morning, however, with police in a subsequent statement citing new “(i)nvestigative leads.” State police are expected to hold a news conference about the case this afternoon.

The latest sightings coincided with two other notable developments.

First, Cavalcante, 34, has “changed his appearance,” state police said, describing him as “clean-shaven” after earlier photos showed him with facial hair. He’s also “wearing a yellow or green hooded sweatshirt, black baseball cap, green prison pants, and white shoes,” police said.

And second, Cavalcante is for the first time said to be driving a vehicle, specifically a 2020 white Ford Transit van reported stolen Saturday night by Baily’s Dairy, a West Chester-based dairy farm within two miles of the prison. In a post on Facebook, the farm said its delivery van had been stolen between 7 and 10 p.m., “while we were still here working.”

“We really do not have any other information at this time, and are just as disappointed as everyone that he broke through the perimeter in Longwood,” Baily’s Dairy wrote.

Nearly 400 officers have joined the round-the-clock search operation for Cavalcante, who was captured in surveillance footage fleeing Chester County Prison by “crab walking” between two walls in an exercise yard, placing his hands on one wall and his feet on another and shimmying out of view. Cavalcante then ran across a roof, scaled another fence and got through razor wire, the prison’s acting warden said.

The sighting Saturday comes on the heels of two reported sightings Friday state police said occurred within the general perimeter near Longwood Gardens where tactical teams, K-9 dogs and a helicopter were combing for any sign of Cavalcante. Since his escape, several sightings had been reported in or around the botanical gardens, about three miles from the prison.

Cavalcante fled about two weeks after he was convicted of first-degree murder for the 2021 killing of his former girlfriend, Deborah Brandão, 33, in Chester County. Authorities said Cavalcante stabbed Brandão 38 times in front of her two children, who are now in the care of her sister.

Cavalcante is also wanted in a 2017 homicide case in Brazil, his native country, a US Marshals Service official has said.

The escape was caught on surveillance video, but it was neither seen nor reported by the tower guard on duty at the time. Officials fired him last Thursday, a source with knowledge of the decision told CNN.

Police monitor a wooded perimeter in the rain during a manhunt for convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. - Mark Makela/Getty Images

Police monitor a wooded perimeter in the rain during a manhunt for convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. – Mark Makela/Getty Images

Repeated sightings, residents on edge

The inmate’s escape from the prison about 30 miles west of Philadelphia has instilled fear within his victim’s family, who have barricaded themselves inside their home, Chester County District Attorney Deborah Ryan said last week. The family has a 24-hour police protection detail, she said, but “they are terrified.”

It has also distressed nearby residents like Ryan Drummond, who told CNN he saw Cavalcante in his Pocopson Township home the night of September 1.

Describing it as an “acute moment of terror,” Drummond said he heard noise in his house and noticed an old French door off the side of their deck was slightly ajar.

“That’s when my stomach dropped,” he told CNN’s Michael Smerconish.

Drummond told his wife to call 911, he said, and saw Cavalcante “walking methodically” out of the kitchen into his living room before leaving the house via the French door.

Cavalcante was seen in or around Chester County’s Longwood Gardens – about 3 miles from the prison – several times last week. On September 2, Cavalcante was seen on surveillance video about 1.5 miles from the prison, authorities said. On Monday, a security camera recorded the fugitive at Longwood Gardens, authorities said.

An area resident then reported seeing Cavalcante on Tuesday in a creek bed on the resident’s property. On Wednesday, a trail camera image showed Cavalcante in or around Longwood Gardens, but officials learned about this sighting Thursday evening, according to Bivens.

Guests were asked to leave the botanical gardens Thursday as the entire venue closed for the manhunt. Police swarmed the botanical gardens, but did not catch the killer.

Despite Cavalcante’s elusive streak, Bivens said he is confident Cavalcante will be caught.

“We’ve got a large perimeter secured,” he said Friday. “That is a pretty secure perimeter that we can push hard against with the tactical team.”

CNN’s Michelle Watson, Jessica Prater, Polo Sandoval, Aya Elamroussi, Brian Todd, Aaron Cooper, Ray Sanchez, Samantha Beech and Linh Tran contributed to this report.

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