Chester County residents remained on high alert for another day as escaped convict Danelo Cavalcante continued evading capture.
State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens told reporters at a press conference Thursday afternoon someone reported they had seen Cavalcante near Longwood Gardens. Searchers, including officers on horseback, were combing that area.
Earlier this week, cameras along Longwood Gardens trails picked up his image.
The total search area is eight to 10 square miles, said Bivens. It is bounded by Route 926 on the north, Route 100 on the east, Route 52 on the west, and Hillendale Road on the south.
It is not easy territory to comb, but he added, “It’s been a very thorough search.”
“I have every reason to believe he is still within that perimeter. We have had no sightings outside that area, and we have maintained as secure a perimeter as we possibly could.”
Law enforcement officers are out in high temperatures and high humidity, but “I have not heard a single complaint,” he said. Searchers are being provided with fluids at their locations. “Morale is high.”
A jury convicted the 34-year-old of brutally stabbing to death his former girlfriend, and he was sentenced to life in prison. He was being held at the Chester County Prison awaiting transfer to a state prison when he climbed walls in a narrow corridor in a crab-like way, made it to the roof, and escaped on Aug. 31.
A massive manhunt has ensued ever since as state, federal, and local law enforcement have sought Cavalcante, who is also wanted for murder in his native Brazil.
Asked about vigilantes who might search independently, Bivens urged Delaware Valley residents not to take matters into their own hands, saying they run the risk of getting into trouble.
“We’ve chased people for a lot longer than this and ultimately brought them to justice,” said Bivens. “As I’ve said before, we’re not going anywhere. We will eventually capture him. And when we do, he’s going to prison.”
“I believe he’s becoming more desperate. I believe he has always been dangerous, and I’ve said that from the start. He’s already murdered two people. One in Brazil and one here in a very brutal manner.”
“We want to end this as quickly as possible. We’ll throw every available resource at him,” Bivens added.
Bivens was also asked about the earlier manhunts he had been involved with, including for cop-killer Eric Frein and escapee Michael Burnham, as DVJournal reported.
“There are similarities between any situation for a manhunt like this,” said Bivens. “We try to learn something from each of those incidents that we handle, taking from that how to run a smoother operation. Our partners, in many cases, are the same. In fact, some of the people here from the federal agencies are some of the same teams and resources on the Warren County search.
“All of us take lessons learned from it; we adapt those to the different circumstances we find. And there are different challenges with every particular search,” he said.
Asked whether they could use thermal imaging technology because it was so hot, he said, “It does not take that technology out of the game at all.”
District Attorney Deb Ryan said Cavalcante would not return to the Chester County Prison after he is captured but would go directly to a state prison.
“Our primary mission is to get this guy in custody,” said Ryan. “That’s where all our attention is focused at this moment.”
Cavalcante has relatives in the general area, and law enforcement has spoken to them. The family of his victim is under guard, authorities said.
Led by their party chair, some Republicans running for county offices spoke at a press conference on Wednesday, criticizing how the Democratic administration has managed Chester County Prison.
“This episode clearly raises many serious questions about the competence of those elected officials in our county who are charged with protecting us,” Chester County Republican Committee Chairman Raffi Terzian said. “How can a convicted murderer, let alone any prisoner, walk out of prison in broad daylight? And now we are learning that this is the second prison break in the past six months.
“Why was there a delay in notifying the public? Why was a convicted murderer housed in a local facility rather than immediately housed in an appropriate state-secured facility?
“What role does the county’s budget planning and oversight have in this entire episode?” Terzian continued. “Once again, this crisis prompts many questions about policy, resources, funding, and the competence of those running our county government. I’ve just listened to the county press conference, and still, many questions remain – fair and reasonable questions that must be answered. And we hope a thorough investigation will provide clarity.”
Lawyer Ryan Hyde, who is running for district attorney, told DVJournal people should be asking questions and demanding transparency from county officials.
“They are entitled to answers,” he said. “However, right now, hundreds of law enforcement officers and thousands of people are in harm’s way, and my thoughts go out to them because I know they are hurting because of this. I can’t imagine carrying the gear they are carrying through dense undergrowth in 100-degree heat. I just hope no one gets hurt.”
Sheriff candidate Roy Kofroth said, “At this time, our focus needs to revolve solely around the safety of our community and the apprehension of Danelo Cavalcante. We must give our law enforcement officers and first responders, who are working tirelessly to bring this man to justice, any and all the support needed to successfully bring this fugitive into custody. Please keep all of our community in your thoughts and prayers during this very unfortunate time.”
“The bottom line is our county deserves better,” said Terzian.