Police defend strategy in hunt for escaped murderer
Law enforcement personnel search for escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante in Glenmoore, Pa., on Monday. MATT ROURKE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
This image provided by the Pennsylvania State Police shows Danelo Cavalcante. The escaped murderer on the run for more than a week in southeast Pennsylvania has been spotted with what police called “a changed appearance.” Pennsylvania State
By Marc Levy and Claudia Lauer | The Associated Press
Authorities in Pennsylvania who have been trying to capture an escaped murderer for nearly two weeks pushed back Monday against questions about whether they blew a chance to collar him, instead blaming the complex terrain in the initial search area for the fugitive’s success in getting clear of it.
Top state and federal officials insisted that the blown perimeter around the area where hundreds had been searching for Danelo Souza Cavalcante includes heavy woods, tunnels and drainage ditches. They also said it took more than two hours for news to reach them that he had been spotted outside of the perimeter for the first time.
At a news conference, they rejected the suggestion that they haven’t been using enough searchers and insisted that the effort — in its 12th day Monday — favors them, despite the fact that there is no longer a well-defined perimeter or any fresh sightings to report.
Robert Clark, the supervisor of the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force in Philadelphia, contended that law enforcement teams have the advantage now that Cavalcante is apparently in a less rural environment in suburban Philadelphia.
“Now we’re going to prepare for the long game, and the long game is what we do best,” Clark said.
Cavalcante slipped out of the 8-square-mile search area over the weekend, stole a dairy delivery van that had been left unlocked with the keys in it, and drove it until it practically ran out of gas.
He abandoned it in a field behind a barn more than 20 miles north of the search area, after unsuccessfully seeking help at the homes of two former colleagues late Saturday, police said.
Lt. Col. George Bivens, of the Pennsylvania State Police, declined to say how he thinks Cavalcante slipped through the perimeter, but he said no perimeter is completely secure.
Cavalcante is desperate because he is reaching out for help from people with whom he hasn’t spoken in years, he said.
“The fact that he has reached out to people with a very distant past connection tells me he doesn’t have a great network of support,” Bivens said. “So I think he’s desperate and I’ve characterized him as that all along. And I think the longer we push him, the more resources, the more tools we bring to bear, we will ultimately capture him. He doesn’t have what he needs to last long-term.”
Police said in a statement on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023 that Danelo Souza Cavalcante was seen overnight near Phoenixville in northern Chester County. PENNSYLVANIASTATE POLICE VIA AP
Cavalcante, 34, has eluded capture since Aug. 31, when he broke out of the Chester County Prison while awaiting transfer to a different lockup. He had been sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing an ex-girlfriend in 2021, allegedly to stop her from telling police that he’s wanted in a slaying in his home country of Brazil.
To escape, Cavalcante scaled a wall by crab-walking up from the recreation yard, climbed over razor wire, ran across a roof and jumped to the ground. His escape went undetected for more than an hour until guards took a headcount. The tower guard on duty was fired, officials said.
In Brazil, prosecutors in Tocantins state said Cavalcante is accused of “double qualified homicide” in the 2017 slaying of Válter Júnior Moreira dos Reis in Figueirópolis, which they said was over a debt the victim owed him for repairing a vehicle.
U.S. authorities describes Cavalcante as extremely dangerous. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his capture.
Bivens said he doesn’t know if Cavalcante is armed, but that he could be and is considered extremely dangerous. He said state police are authorized to use deadly force if Cavalcante isn’t actively surrendering. Other agencies involved in the search may have their own rules, he noted.