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Danelo Cavalcante: Pennsylvania searchers trying to ‘stress’ escaped killer and force a mistake, official says


About 200 law enforcement personnel are searching for escaped convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante in eastern Pennsylvania, hoping to “stress him” out of hiding as the manhunt Wednesday stretches into its seventh day, a US Marshals Service official said.

“This is a dangerous game of tactical hide and seek,” Robert Clark, supervisory deputy US marshal for Pennsylvania’s eastern district, told CNN’s Laura Coates on Tuesday night. “And it takes time.”

The escape has put community members on edge and forced two school districts to close for two days in a row as police advise residents to keep their doors and cars locked, warning Cavalcante is extremely dangerous.

Cavalcante, 34, escaped from Chester County Prison on Thursday, initially launching authorities into a multiday search through a heavily wooded area in Pocopson Township and Chester County within 2 miles of the prison – a rural area around 30 miles west of Philadelphia.

The search perimeter expanded a little this week after a trail camera recorded Cavalcante on Monday at a popular botanical garden nearly 3 miles from the prison, and just south of where police were looking for him.

“There’s a lot of ravines, a lot of tall fields, a lot of grass, a lot of hiding spaces for a guy that is 5 foot, 120 pounds,” Clark said.

Authorities hope to keep Cavalcante moving and force him to make a mistake, Clark said.

“We plan to stress him. We plan to move him,” Clark said. “We plan to have him make mistakes – which he has already made now. He has appeared on camera two times.”

The plan is to make sure he doesn’t get too comfortable, Clark said. Authorities say it appears Cavalcante had somehow obtained some items, including a backpack, a “duffel-sling type pack,” and a hooded sweatshirt.

“We are going to get boots in the woods. We are going to let him know we are there. We are going to leave no rock unturned. We are going to check every little hiding spot,” Clark said. “And should we miss him, we are going to go back in again the next day.”

Cavalcante was convicted of first-degree murder on August 16 in the killing of his former girlfriend, 33-year-old Deborah Brandão, in 2021. He was sentenced to life without parole.

He is also wanted in a 2017 homicide case in Brazil, his native country, according to Clark.

While police haven’t seen anything to suggest he has obtained a weapon, he is being treated as “armed and dangerous” because of his history, Clark said.

“This is a dangerous, dangerous man. He’s got nothing to lose,” Clark said.

Danelo Cavalcante is seen in this image from security footage released by Pennsylvania State Police.

There had been five “credible sightings” of Cavalcante within the previous search area, Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said Tuesday.

Ryan Drummond of Pocopson Township told CNN affiliate WPVI he believes he saw Cavalcante inside his home last week. Drummond said he got up to investigate after hearing a noise from downstairs at around 11:45 p.m. Friday.

“What I decided to do was flip the light switch on and off three or four or five times, pause, and then he flipped the light switch from downstairs three or four times, which was the moment of, like, ‘Oh my God, this guy’s down there,’” Drummond said.

Drummond said he then watched as Cavalcante took food and walked out of his home. US marshals came to the home Sunday, searching the woods alongside his property, according to Drummond.

Cavalcante was spotted on a surveillance camera early Saturday about 1.5 miles from the prison, before being captured on camera again at Longwood Gardens at 8:21 p.m. Monday, authorities said.

Monday’s sighting signaled to police that Cavalcante was south of the original search area, and they expanded the perimeter to cover that area, Bivens said.

Meanwhile, Longwood Gardens, which boasts “nearly 200 acres of lush, formal gardens, open meadows, and winding paths,” was closed Tuesday as police searched the property and surrounding area.

Cavalcante’s escape has also resulted in several school closures.

Kennett Consolidated School District, which is about 9 miles from the prison, and the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, about 5 miles from the prison, announced closures Tuesday and Wednesday.

Authorities have given no official explanation for how Cavalcante escaped from Chester County Prison. They could place Cavalcante in a different facility once he is captured, Clark said.

Law enforcement officials search for Danelo Cavalcante on August 31 in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

“He is going to be brought in and placed in a secure facility where he’s not going to be able to break out again, I can assure you that,” Clark told CNN.

Police have tried broadcasting from police helicopters and patrol cars a message in Portuguese from Cavalcante’s mother encouraging him to surrender, Clark said.

“We are trying to use some of that psychology that, if he is tired and he is desperate and he is thinking about maybe giving up, maybe this will put him over the edge to have a peaceful surrender,” Clark said.

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