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

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

The latest images of Danelo Cavalcante, 34, a killer who slipped out of custody Thursday, were captured Monday night on a trail camera at Longwood Gardens, a public esplanade in Chester County, 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. How he got outside prison barriers is part of an investigation.

More than 200 law enforcement officers searched 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 made up of money from his agency and the Chester County government is available for anyone whose tip leads to Cavalcante’s capture.

With Cavalcante still on the lam, the Kennett Consolidated School Districts said there would be no on-campus instruction Tuesday or Wednesday. The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District closed schools and offices Tuesday, and said it would review the situation Wednesday morning and provide an update at 5 a.m.

Longwood Gardens, where the camera caught sight of Cavalcante, is usually closed on Tuesdays but would remain closed Wednesday, it said.

Cavalcante is also wanted in 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 the audio in hope that Cavalcante hears it and heeds his mom’s advice, officials said.

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

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 Cavalcante’s, hoping to unearth any clue about where he 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 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.”

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

But he has picked up a backpack, a “sling-type duffel bag” and a hooded sweatshirt, Bivens said.

Investigators believe Cavalcante broke into a car or a home to get the 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 to say exactly how Cavalcante got out, Bivens 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 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 whether Cavalcante’s and Bolte’s actions were similar, repeating only that a probe into the latest breach continues.

Police reminded residents within several miles of the Chester County Prison in Pocopson Township on Tuesday to lock cars and all other doors, especially those 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 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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