The fugitive who escaped Chester County Prison and has eluded authorities for a week and a half was seen on Saturday night near a town about 25 miles from the area where hundreds of law enforcement officers had been searching for him for days, the Pennsylvania State Police said.
The state police released photos early Sunday of Danelo Cavalcante, 34, that they said were taken near Phoenixville, Pa., apparently by a door camera. He was seen clean-shaven, wearing a black baseball cap, a light-colored hooded sweatshirt and green prison pants. He had also apparently obtained a vehicle, a 2020 White Ford van with a refrigeration unit on the top. It had been reported stolen by a dairy farm not far from the jail.
Late morning Sunday, however, the Pennsylvania State Police said in a message on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that “investigative leads have emerged that indicate Cavalcante is no longer” in the Phoenixville area. The agency did not say where the search was now focusing on.
Phoenixville is about a 40-minute drive north of where the search has been taking place. Mr. Cavalcante, a Brazilian national, murdered his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandão, just outside of the town in April 2021. He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder just days before he escaped. According to testimony at his trial, reported in the Daily Local News of West Chester, Mr. Cavalcante, who had been living in a town a few miles away, had a sister living in Phoenixville, and called on friends there after the murder to help him flee. He was caught in Virginia; authorities believe he was trying to make his way back to Brazil.
Ms. Brandão’s sister and children still live in the Phoenixville area. Last Thursday, Deborah Ryan, the Chester County district attorney, said that they were “terrified” of Mr. Cavalcante and had not left their home since he escaped.
“They’re barricaded inside and very concerned about their safety,” Ms. Ryan said, adding that they were under 24-hour police protection.
Mr. Cavalcante is also wanted in Brazil for allegedly killing a man in 2017 in a city in the northern part of the country. That time, too, he managed to evade authorities.
“After the crime that he committed down there, he did something very similar to this in the jungle,” said Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police in a briefing on Friday.
The sighting in Phoenixville comes days after authorities announced that the search operation had grown to include nearly 400 federal, state and local officers, using drones, dogs, horses and helicopters. The area authorities were focusing on had shifted over the course of the last week, but on Friday, it narrowed to an eight- to 10-square-mile sector including Longwood Gardens, a sprawling botanical garden where Mr. Cavalcante had been seen several times.
It has been more than 10 days since he clambered up a wall outside the exercise yard at Chester County Prison, pushing through razor wire, running across a roof and scaling a fence to escape. The officer on duty in a watchtower at the time, who did not notice the jail break, has been fired.
In the small communities and wooded areas near the jail, Mr. Cavalcante was seen several times, at times by local residents and at times on security cameras. Baily’s Dairy at Pocopson Meadow Farm, which reported the stolen van, lies in the rural area between the gardens and Chester County Prison.
In a message on Facebook, the owners of Baily’s Dairy said the van was stolen between 7 and 10 p.m. “while we were still here working.” They added that they were “just as disappointed as everyone that he broke through the perimeter.”