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Escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante seen driving stolen van, visiting former colleague’s house, police say

Authorities reported another possible sighting Sunday morning of the escaped Pennsylvania prison inmate who for 11 days has evaded search teams while on the run.

Danelo Cavalcante, who was convicted of first-degree murder, escaped from Chester County Prison in West Chester, about an hour from Philadelphia by car, at around 8:45 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31. The 34-year-old has been seen several times since then, by physical witnesses and on surveillance tapes, according to police.

Cavalcante on Saturday stole a transit van, which authorities discovered abandoned in East Nantmeal Township later that night, Lt. Col. George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police said at a news conference on Sunday afternoon. Investigators found that keys had been left inside the vehicle and determined that the escapee did use the van, Bivens said.

At around 9 p.m., Cavalcante attempted to contact an old work associate and asked to meet with him, but the person did not respond, according to Bivens. Doorbell surveillance footage showing a man believed to be Cavalcante was officers’ first indication that he had fled the Longwood Gardens area, where a perimeter had been established last week and search efforts were focused.

About an hour later, Cavalcante appeared at the residence of a second former work associate, who called her friend and reported the visit to state police. As of Sunday afternoon, authorities were unsure if Cavalcante had a weapon on his person, but Bivens said they have confirmed he has been inside several residences since his escape. It was unclear what Cavalcante may have taken from those locations.

Overnight Saturday, a Ring camera in East Pikeland Township recorded footage of a man wearing a baseball cap and hooded sweatshirt, who is believed to be Cavalcante, the Upper Providence Township Police Department said in anews release. The police department shared several images taken from the Ring camera.

There was an increased police presence in Upper Providence Township on Sunday, according to the department. Authorities asked people in the area to “remain inside and lock your vehicles and homes.” People have been encouraged to check their own surveillance devices and call 911 to report any other potential sightings of Cavalcante.

AsCBS Philadelphia reported, the man seen early Sunday on the Ring camera appeared to be dressed in green pants similar to a prison uniform, as well as white sneakers. Unlike previous images released of Cavalcante, the man in surveillance footage from East Pikeland Township is clean shaven without a beard or mustache.

Cavalcante was operating a 2020 White Ford Transit van with a refrigeration unit attached to the roof, according to Pennsylvania state troopers. The vehicle has been reported as stolen by Baily’s Dairy, a farm in West Chester.

“Danelo Cavalcante is operating a 2020 White Ford Transit (van) bearing Pennsylvania registration ZST8818. The van has a refrigeration unit on the top. The vehicle is reported stolen by Baily’s Dairy,” the Pennsylvania State Policetweeted on Sunday. “Law Enforcement agencies nationwide has been advised.”

Before the newest possible sighting in East Pikeland Township, Cavalcante was last seen Friday in two separate sightingswithin the area of Longwood Gardens, which is densely wooded, Pennsylvania State Police confirmed on Saturday. Law enforcement had been focusing their search in that area after previous sightings suggested Cavalcante may have been hiding there, CBS Philadelphia reported.

Bivens reiterated Sunday afternoon that efforts to secure the perimeter around Longwood Gardens, where the search area was established, posed significant challenges for law enforcement.

“No perimeter is 100% secure, ever,” he said at the briefing, responding to a reporter who asked how Cavalcante was able to slip past officers stationed there.

“I’m not going to make an excuse to you. I wish it had not happened,” Bivens said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of circumstances, there are a lot of issues associated with that property. Tunnels, very large drainage ditches, things that could not be secured. You couple that with weather, aviation being down for a night.”

Bivens noted that underground tunnels in the vicinity of a Longwood Gardens property currently under construction “could not be secured.” He said he remains “confident we will capture him, and we will bring him back into the criminal justice system.”

Cavalcante is a Brazilian national who is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish and speaks some English as well, authorities said. He was convicted of first-degree murder in August and sentenced to life imprisonment for fatally stabbing his 33-year-old former girlfriend in April 2021. Cavalcante is also wanted in connection with a homicide in Brazil. Officers said in the days following his escape that they had already investigated two burglaries while searching for Cavalcante. He is believed to have stolen various items, including a backpack and a duffel bag, from a home or car early last week.

On Wednesday, police released surveillance footage that showed Cavalcante using a crab-walk to climb the prison wall until he disappeared from view, escaping from the excercise yard on the property to the roof. That is the same route that another inmate, Igor Bolte, used to escape from the prison on May 19, officials said.

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