Fugitive killer Danilo Cavalcanti managed to elude hundreds of law enforcement officers searching a wooded area near Longwood Gardens, then stole a nearby dairy truck and resurfaced over the weekend in surveillance footage in the Phoenixville area — on the other side of Chester County about 25 miles. .
Cavalcanti, 34, who escaped from Chester County Jail on Aug. 31 by climbing a wall in an exercise yard, appeared Saturday night on a doorbell camera in East Peakland Township, having changed into new clothes and shaved off his beard and mustache along the way. road.
>>>Live coverage: The search continues Monday for escaped convict Danilo Cavalcanti
The police have been tracking him for 11 days.
“He’s a very determined person,” Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivins said in a news conference Sunday afternoon to address a slew of developments over the past 24 hours.
In the Ring camera video, Cavalcanti asks a former co-worker for help, police said. He then showed up at the home of another former co-worker in the Phoenixville area Saturday night, who was also not home. Both stops led to a call to the police.
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In still photos distributed by police, Cavalcanti appears without the mustache and beard he had in prison. Instead of a white prison-issued shirt, he was wearing a yellow or green hooded sweatshirt, a black baseball-style hat, green prison pants, and white shoes, police said.
Cavalcanti drove north in a white 2020 Ford that he stole from Baily’s Dairy near Longwood Gardens. Police said the keys were left in the truck. Law enforcement agencies across the country were alerted, but Cavalcanti later abandoned the truck, likely because it ran out of fuel.
Asked how Cavalcanti survived the initial search perimeter and reached the dairy farm, Bivins said a number of factors could play a role, including rough terrain, darkness, inclement weather, drainage ditches and underground tunnels.
“I don’t know how he got there,” Bivens said. “I wish I had. … No perimeter is 100% safe. We do everything we can. Most of the time we are able to secure it adequately.”
Cavalcante, a Brazilian national, was sentenced last month to life in prison for killing his ex-girlfriend Deborah Brandao, 33, in front of her children in 2021. He escaped a week later, leading to the firing of a corrections officer Thursday. A source told The Inquirer that the man was on duty in a guard tower and carrying a personal cell phone in violation of prison regulations.
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Heading into Phoenixville over the weekend, Cavalcanti was back in familiar territory. He and the Brandao family have ties to the area.
After killing Brandao outside her Schuylkill home in August 2021, and stabbing her more than 30 times, Cavalcanti received help from nearby friends. He parked a rented construction trailer in a Phoenixville parking lot, cleaned himself up, changed his clothes, and headed south to Virginia. He was arrested there hours after the stabbing.
At his trial, two of Cavalcanti’s friends testified that they helped wash Brandao’s blood from his hands, changed Cavalcanti’s clothes, and put gas in his car. They testified against him in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
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Bivins confirmed on Sunday that Cavalcanti’s sister, Eleni, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and faces deportation, citing “some immigration issues.” He did not say whether the arrest was related to helping Cavalcanti after his escape from prison last month. Eleni Cavalcante has connections to the two friends who helped her brother flee the area after killing Brandao. One of them, Francisco Lima, testified that before Cavalcanti left for Virginia, he gave him a bag of money to deliver to his sister.
Late Sunday morning, state police said leads had emerged indicating Cavalcanti was no longer around Phoenixville. The snipers were later positioned in a field near where the truck was discovered, in the town of East Nantmile, about 20 minutes west of Phoenixville, according to a law enforcement source.
Bivins said he believes Cavalcanti is still in Pennsylvania.
“This is a minor setback,” he added. “We’ll get it. It’s just a matter of time.”
Before Saturday night, the last reported sighting of Cavalcanti was on Friday within an eight-square-mile search area near Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. Phoenixville is located about 30 miles north, between King of Prussia and Pottstown and off the busy East-West Route 422.
At a news conference on Friday, Bivins said he believed a search involving nearly 400 law enforcement officers around the Longwood Gardens area had succeeded in containing Cavalcanti within those eight square miles. The search entered its tenth day on Saturday, using air support, mounted patrols and other resources to support officers on the ground.
Longwood Gardens posted a message on its website Sunday saying it plans to reopen Wednesday. Except for two days, the popular Botanical Gardens have been closed since Labor Day weekend after Cavalcanti was spotted multiple times on surveillance cameras on the property.
Anyone with information on Cavalcanti’s whereabouts is urged to call 911 or the state police tip line at 717-562-2987.
Cavalcanti is considered very dangerous. In addition to stabbing Brandao to death, he is also wanted by authorities in Brazil for allegedly shooting a man to death in 2017 in the state of Tocantins.
Staff writer Diane Mastrole contributed to this article.