Heavily armed law enforcement officers move along Rt. 52 as the search continues for Danelo Cavalcante in Pocopson Township, Pa., on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023. Cavalcante escaped from the Chester County Prison. Cavalcante was able to escape a prison yard in suburban Pennsylvania last week by climbing up a wall and over razor wire, officials said at a news conference Wednesday. (Photo: AP/David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer)

WEST CHESTER, Pa.— A murderer who made a brazen escape from a suburban Philadelphia jail yard was still on the lam Thursday as the search entered its second week.

Residents who were under siege as heavily armed police hunted for the fugitive roaming their neighborhood for several days described frustration with the search and anxiety at being locked down.

Danilo Souza Cavalcante, a 34-year-old from Brazil, escaped from the Chester County prison on Aug. 31 by scaling a wall, climbing over razor wire and jumping from a roof. The breakout wasn’t detected by guards for a full hour, authorities say.

Considered extremely dangerous, Cavalcante has since been spotted at least six times. Authorities continue to move and expand their search perimeter — now a vast area filled with forests and thick brush — while residents remain on edge.

Ryan Drummond, 42, had a harrowing encounter with the man believed to be the escapee when his home in Pocopson was broken into late Friday.

After awaking to a noise in the kitchen at about 11:40 p.m., he checked on his young kids, grabbed a framed picture of his family as armor, then flickered the hall lights from upstairs several times — and had fear pulse through him when the intruder flicked them back.

“That was kind of the terrifying moment, where I like, looked at (my wife) quickly and said, ‘He is in the house, call 911 right now,’” Drummond said Wednesday.

“I saw him methodically, not panicked, walk out of the kitchen, in the living room toward that French door and walk out,” he said.

Police came within a minute, but not before Cavalcante — if it was him — was on the run again, with a few pieces of fruit from Drummond’s kitchen in hand.

Cavalcante received a life sentence last month for killing his ex-girlfriend in front of her children in 2021. He escaped while awaiting transfer to state prison. Prosecutors say he killed her to prevent her from telling police that he’s wanted in a 2017 killing back in Brazil.

He had been captured in Virginia after the ex-girlfriend’s murder, and authorities believe he was trying to return to Brazil.

The escape and search have attracted international attention and became big news in Cavalcante’s native Brazil. The main newspaper in Rio de Janeiro ran a lengthy story Wednesday with the headline “Dangerous hide-and-seek.”

One suburban Philadelphia school district which had shuttered this week said it planned to open five schools Thursday that are located outside the search perimeter. Another neighboring district said it reopened three schools late Wednesday and they would be open for classes on Thursday.

Longwood Gardens, one of the nation’s premier botanical gardens, planned to reopen Thursday morning. A trail surveillance video captured Cavalcante walking through the garden’s grounds on Monday night.


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