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Authorities try to flush out escaped murderer in suburban Philadelphia manhunt

AP Photo This photo provided by the Chester County, Pa., District Attorney's Office shows escaped prisoner Danelo Cavalcante. Cavalcante, who was recently convicted of fatally stabbing his girlfriend, escaped Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, from a suburban Philadelphia prison and prosecutors say he is also wanted in his native Brazil in a separate slaying.

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Two suburban Philadelphia school districts remained shuttered and one of the nation’s premier botanical gardens was closed Wednesday as authorities worked to flush out a convicted murderer who escaped last week.

Danelo Cavalcante, 34, has been spotted five times since he escaped Thursday from the Chester County Prison. The most recent sighting came Monday night at Longwood Gardens, where trail surveillance video captured him walking through the area with a duffel bag, backpack and hooded sweatshirt he apparently stole while on the run.

That sighting led officials to move the search area farther south on Tuesday after they determined that Cavalcante had likely slipped through the original perimeter set by hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement officers, but they said his movements show he’s feeling the pressure of the massive search and that his options are dwindling.

The ongoing manhunt of a fugitive authorities labeled extremely dangerous forced officials in two school districts within the large search area to cancel classes for a second straight day, citing “an overabundance of caution.” Longwood Gardens, which is closed on Tuesdays, cited the same reason in announcing it would not open Wednesday.

Authorities have urged residents to keep their homes and vehicles locked, to check the properties of vacationing neighbors and to look out for missing cars, bicycles or any other mode of transportation Cavalcante might use.

“It’s unnerving to know that I can’t stand in my backyard with my dogs. My husband has to come outside with me and, you know, it’s just an uneasy feeling,” said Danielle Lawrence, of Pocopson, which is near the county’s jail, roughly 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Philadelphia.

Authorities haven’t disclosed how Cavalcante managed to escape, saying it is under investigation. He received a life sentence last month for killing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, in front of her children in 2021, and escaped while awaiting transfer to state prison. Prosecutors say he killed her to stop her from telling police that he’s wanted in a 2017 killing in his native Brazil.

He was captured in Virginia after Brandao’s killing and authorities believe he was trying to return to Brazil.

The escape and manhunt have attracted international attention and become big news in his native country, where it has been a daily fixture on TV news and in newspapers. The main newspaper in Rio de Janeiro ran a lengthy story in Wednesday editions with the headline ‘Dangerous hide-and-seek.’

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