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FLOWERS: Relatives Have a Duty to Report a Dangerous Criminal

When Ted Kaczynski’s younger brother David first suspected that his idolized sibling was the infamous Unabomber, a man who had terrorized the country for almost two decades, he refused to believe it.

In an interview recorded after the elder Kaczynski was arrested in 1995, based in large part upon his brother’s reluctant assistance, he stated, “I recall waking up some mornings and thinking that I knew, one way or the other. I mean, one morning, I would wake up and say to myself, ‘You know, this can’t be, you know, there’s 280 million people in our country; what are the chances that Ted could be the guilty party here? Very small. I’m projecting my fears. I’ve been worried about my brother.’”

Ultimately, though, he couldn’t deny the fact that, as he said, “the truth is staring you in the face.” And when that happened, he went to law enforcement and gave them the information that they needed to arrest his brother, a man who had eluded them for 17 years.

I thought of David Kaczynski when I read of the recent arrest of Danelo Cavalcante’s sister. This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it had detained Eleni Cavalcante for “immigration issues” and declined to comment on whether it had anything to do with her brother’s escape. Still, it’s not a stretch to think that the only reason that ICE is focused on her now, assuming she has had these “immigration issues” for a while, is that she is a family member of a convicted murderer who, until this morning, was playing a high stakes game of hide and seek with the Pennsylvania State Police.

Ted Kaczynski, the Unibomber (FBI archives) 

While many people reached out to ask me about the immigration aspect of the case, given that I’m an immigration attorney who started practicing in the field the same year that Ted Kaczynski was arrested, I have to be honest that other than disgust at her actions, I don’t have very much information about why she is a person of interest with ICE.

I tweeted this when I heard that she had been taken into custody: “What a monster, this Brazilian sister of Danelo Cavalcante. She refuses to assist authorities in apprehending her killer brother and has the arrogance to do that while violating her visa status. This woman is evil and has no place in any civilized society, including our own.”

I wasn’t in the business of mincing words. We know she has refused to cooperate with authorities because that’s what they’ve said publicly. We know she has visa issues because she’s detained by ICE. Beyond that, there isn’t much clarification.

But my focus is on the fact that a person who very likely has some information about where her brother is located, or at the very least knows people who have that information, has remained silent.

We are not talking about a benign Robin Hood of the Brandywine Valley. We are not talking about someone who committed vandalism. We are dealing with a man who murdered a young mother in front of her children after having previously escaped from Brazil on suspicion of having murdered someone else in his native country. For Eleni Cavalcante to simply refuse to help and remain silent as a dangerous killer is on the loose among us is inexcusable.

Some people have taken issue with my position, suggesting that maybe she herself is afraid. I acknowledge that her brother might have very well threatened her, but staying silent and guaranteeing that he will remain free to prey on others is not the way to minimize the personal threat to her or other family members. Having him arrested is in her best interest, so I doubt that fear is the primary motivation here.

Another person suggested what I think is the probable answer, tweeting, “The crime is horrible, not condoning it in any way, but blood is blood.” I find that repellent the idea that because we share DNA, we are obligated to provide protection and support, but it makes sense when you see the thousands of people who refuse to “rat out” a neighbor, let alone a family member.

That is what makes David Kaczynski’s act so heroic. He loved his brother and was devastated by his obligation’s heavy burden, but he chose to place society’s welfare over his own feelings.

Unlike Danelo Cavalcante’s reprehensible sister.