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Police announce 2 more confirmed sightings of escaped murderer on the run in Pennsylvania

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) — Police on Saturday reported two more confirmed sightings of an escaped murderer on the run for more than a week in southeast Pennsylvania amid a search by hundreds of law enforcement officers.

Danelo Souza Cavalcante, 34, escaped from the Chester County Prison while awaiting transfer to state prison on Aug. 31 after being sentenced to life for fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend in 2021. Prosecutors say he wanted to stop her from telling police that he’s wanted in a killing in his home country of Brazil.

Authorities, who have described Cavalcante as extremely dangerous, didn’t release details about the sightings but said they occurred Friday within the search area focused around the now-closed Longwood Gardens botanical garden in East Marlborough Township, where the fugitive inmate has been spotted several times.

Authorities believe Cavalcante, spotted almost a dozen times since his escape, has managed to obtain clothing and other supplies. Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said Friday that about 400 personnel were taking part in the search of the southeastern Philadelphia suburbs, farmland and the vast botanical garden, including tactical teams in full combat gear, tracking dogs, and officers on horseback as well as aircraft.

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Longwood Gardens, closed indefinitely after the sightings, sprawls across nearly 200 acres (80 hectares), with paths winding through gardens, an outdoor theater, ponds, fountains and meadows, and structures including indoor gardens, treehouses and a restaurant.

Officials in Kennett Square, about 6.5 miles (10 kilometers) away from the county prison, said the annual mushroom festival would go on as scheduled this weekend despite the ongoing search, assuring visitors that “all necessary precautions and protocols” were in place. They said they felt it was important to go ahead with the festival because “bringing our community together is essential, especially during these challenging times.”

Officials on Friday announced the firing of the prison tower guard on duty when Cavalcante scaled a wall by crab-walking up from the recreation yard, climbed over razor wire, ran across a roof and jumped to the ground. His escape went undetected for more than an hour until guards took a headcount. The guard, a corrections officer for 18 years who was put on administrative leave after the escape, also had his personal cellphone on him at the time, a violation of jail protocol, county spokesperson Michelle Bjork said.

There’s now a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Cavalcante, whose escape has attracted international attention and became big news in Brazil. The main newspaper in Rio de Janeiro ran a lengthy story Wednesday with the headline “Dangerous hide-and-seek.”

Prosecutors in Tocantins state have confirmed that a criminal case attributes “the crime of double qualified homicide to the defendant Danilo Souza Cavalcante.” Authorities allege that Válter Júnior Moreira dos Reis was killed in 2017 in Figueirópolis over a debt the victim owed Cavalcante in connection with repair of a vehicle. The case is being handled by a court specialized in combating violence against women and crimes against life.