PHOENIXVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say an escaped murderer who has eluded capture since breaking out of a southeastern Pennsylvania prison a week and a half ago has apparently slipped out of the search area, changed his appearance and is now being sought in a stolen vehicle.
Pennsylvania State Police said in a statement Sunday morning that Danelo Souza Cavalcante was seen overnight near Phoenixville in northern Chester County, more than 20 miles northeast of the area that until now has been the focus of the search. Shortly before noon Sunday, however, they said Phoenixville residents may no longer see a large law enforcement presence since “investigative leads have emerged that indicate Cavalcante is no longer in that area.”
Cavalcante is now clean-shaven and wearing a yellow or green hooded sweatshirt, black baseball cap, green prison pants and white shoes, police said. He was driving a 2020 White Ford Transit van that has a refrigeration unit on the top and had been reported stolen by Baily’s Dairy and has Pennsylvania registration ZST8818.
Cavalcante, 34, escaped from the Chester County Prison while awaiting transfer to state prison on Aug. 31 after being sentenced to life for fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend in 2021. Prosecutors say he wanted to stop her from telling police that he was wanted in a killing in his home country of Brazil.
Phoenixville is about 13 miles (21 kilometers) northeast of the prison and more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of the Longwood Gardens botanical park that was the center of the search in recent days. Police on Saturday had reported two more confirmed sightings of Cavalcante within that search area. Longwood Gardens posted a notice saying the search “has moved north of our community” but it remained closed while “assessing the condition of our gardens.”
Authorities have described Cavalcante as extremely dangerous. Police are asking anyone with information to call 911. A $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to his capture.
Lt. Col. George Bivens of the state police said Friday that about 400 personnel were taking part in the search of the southeastern Philadelphia suburbs, farmland and the vast botanical garden, including tactical teams in full combat gear, tracking dogs, and officers on horseback as well as aircraft.
Officials in Kennett Square, about 6.5 miles (10 kilometers) away from the county prison, said the annual mushroom festival would go on as scheduled Saturday and Sunday despite the ongoing search, assuring visitors that “all necessary precautions and protocols” were in place.
Authorities on Friday announced the firing of the prison tower guard on duty when 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.
Cavalcante’s escape and the search have attracted international attention and become big news in Brazil, where prosecutors in Tocantins state say he’s accused of “double qualified homicide” in the 2017 slaying of Válter Júnior Moreira dos Reis in Figueirópolis, which they allege was over a debt the victim owed him in connection with the repair of a vehicle.