As the search for the convicted-killer-turned-fugitive Danelo Cavalcante entered its 12th day on Monday, Pennsylvania State Police conceded that they no longer have a “defined search area” to contain him—highlighting a slew of apparent blunders by authorities in recent days.
In a press conference Monday, State Police Lt. Colonel George Bivens was pressed to answer questions about his agency’s seemingly shaky manhunt. He refused to concede his officers dropped the ball, but admitted there were “weaknesses” in the latest police perimeter that allowed Cavalcante to wiggle out from under cops’ noses for a third time.
Bivens suggested Cavalcante’s most recent breach of the search perimeter, on Saturday, came when the “extremely dangerous” fugitive possibly used underground tunnels or drains to crawl beneath the 200-plus officers who’d secured an area around Pocopson Township.
“I’m aware of the weaknesses that were in there,” Bivens said. “And I believe he exploited one of those weaknesses.”
Meanwhile, as the blunders pile up, a report in The New York Times revealed Cavalcante had gone on the run from law enforcement in the past.
After he was accused of shooting a man dead in his native Brazil, Cavalcante evaded prosecution by disappearing into the Brazilian bush in 2017, the Times reported. Old neighbors told the outlet that Cavalcante was comfortable outdoors, having lived his entire life on ranches in rural regions of the country.
“When you’re used to the ranch, you know how to hide,” local resident Raimundo Campos dos Santos said. “He spent a lot of time in the bush.”
Others shared that they were terrified of Cavalcante, with rumors once swirling that he used to keep an arsenal of guns at his ranch.
Cavalcante, 34, never faced prosecution in Brazil and escaped the country using a false identity, the Times reported. He eventually found his way to Pennsylvania, though details on his journey to the U.S. remain murky.
Then, on Aug. 30, he managed to escape once again by casually crab-walking up two walls of the Chester County Prison—40 miles outside Philadelphia—where he was serving time for murdering his ex-girlfriend.
He then sauntered across a rooftop and dropped down into a less-secure area of the prison, where he was able to flee. A tower guard was later fired.
Cavalcante has evaded police ever since. Despite being captured on trail-cams, security cameras and doorbell cameras, he has broken through police perimeters three times and has been able to rob homes, steal survival gear, shave, change clothes, steal a van, and drive dozens of miles away.
Bivens said he’s not certain on what time or how Cavalcante breached the last perimeter over the weekend. Without that information, he said Monday that the manhunt shouldn’t be characterized as having failed.
“I don’t know that I would characterize it as a mistake,” Bivens said. “It was a very difficult place to try and secure.”
With future perimeters gone, Bivens said investigators “have taken a change in direction” in how they’ll search for Cavalcante. He said he believes Cavalcante is still in Pennsylvania, despite no longer knowing his approximate whereabouts.
At the time of his escape, Cavalcante was days away from starting a life sentence for brutally stabbing his ex-girlfriend in 2021. After stabbing her more than 3o times in front of her young children, he booked it out of town—making it as far as Virginia before he was apprehended and held without bail ahead of trial.
Bivens said it remains unclear if Cavalcante received any help from loved ones in each of his three escapes. He revealed on Monday, however, that Cavalcante has been asking for help himself—in one instance using a Ring doorbell camera to ask for help from a former colleague over the weekend.
Bivens said Cavalcante had a demeanor that was “urgent but friendly” in the recorded message, which hasn’t been released publicly.
“It was someone he clearly had not spoken to in some period of time,” Bivens said. “And so there was a real acquaintance and an effort to get assistance.”
Bivens said he believes Cavalcante is getting “desperate.” He added that officers have tried to cut him off from anyone who could help him—including his sister, who refused to assist police and has since been taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on a deportation order.
There is now a $25,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Cavalcante. He’s about 5 feet tall and weights 120 pounds, with brown eyes and dark, curly hair.
Bivens issued a stark warning to anyone tempted to aid Cavalcante in any way, promising repeatedly on Monday that they’d be prosecuted themselves.
“We’re monitoring for any possible help in a variety of ways,” Bivens said. “If we detect assistance, that will be prosecuted. I’m not going to say anything further than that in terms of who may or may not have [assisted], but what I'm going to say is as a warning—you will be prosecuted.”