Escaped murderer stole van; thought now to be in northern part of county

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

A clean-shaven Danelo Cavalcante captured on a doorbell camera, Saturday night.

The hunt for escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante took a major turn over the weekend, as authorities say he managed to steal a van from a Pocopson dairy and was sighted in Phoenixville and East Pikeland and is thought to currently be somewhere in the northern Chester County area — and he has a new look, cleanly shaved.

New images featured his changed look were released Sunday.

But — during a briefing Monday afternoon at Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company — it is clear that the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) does not have a firm idea of where Cavalcante is at the moment, as the search continues. Chester County has added to the reward, boosting the total reward for help in capturing Cavalcante to $25,000.

Currently, the search is centered on the East Nantmeal area.

According to PSP Lt. Col. George Bivens, Cavalcante was seen on doorbell camera of former associates and apparently tried to visit his sister Eleni. Bivens would not say whether she offered assistance to her brother, but Eleni Cavalcante was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after she declined to help authorities find her brother. Bevins said that she had overstayed her visa.

The unnamed former associates did not offer help and contacted local police at about 10:30 pm and PSP was alerted sometime after midnight. At 4 am Sunday morning, the county put out an alert asking residents to check on their vehicles and make sure they were locked — and to report any missing vehicles.

The van, stolen from Bailey’s Farm on Unionville-Lenape Road (which was outside of the previous search perimeter) was later found abandoned in East Nantmeal after it ran out of gas. At this point, PSP doesn’t think he left that immediate area. He is not thought to be in Phoenixville, where he was also seen. As of Monday afternoon, PSP does not think he moved north into either Berks or Montgomery counties.

“Without information to the contrary, we think he is still in Chester County,” Bivens said.

Unlike the earlier stage of the search, Bivens said that there is no hard perimeter for the search area. More than 300 law enforcement officers are currently engaged in the search, as led by PSP.

Bivens warned any would-be helpers to Cavalcante not to do it.

“If we detect assistance, we will prosecute,” he said.

Bivens made a couple of requests from the public at large: 1. keep all cars, outbuildings and homes locked to deny additional resources for his escape (noting that the van at Bailey’s was left unlocked with keys in it); 2. would-be vigilantes are not welcome at the search area, Bivens said they do not help and take resources away from the search.

Anyone with information on Cavalcante’s whereabouts is asked to contact the PSP at 717-562-2987.

Cavalcante escaped from Chester County Prison on August 31, where he was being held after his conviction earlier in the month of the 2021 killing his girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her two young children. He was sentenced last month to life in prison and was awaiting reassignment to a state prison, pending the appeal of his sentence and conviction.

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