Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Escaped Convicted Killer's Search Expands In Pennsylvania As Officials Issue Warning To Potential Helpers. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2023 - 14:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: The search for a killer expanding, after police say he was spotted somewhere they were not looking, and the fugitive has a whole new look. An official update coming at any moment. We're gonna bring it to you live.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: A smell of death in the air and desperate cries for help going unanswered. Earthquake survivors in Morocco speaking about the nightmare that has killed more than 2,500 people, that's so far, as first responders race to save more lives.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And a new battle over guns in America. The governor of New Mexico announcing a 30-day ban on carrying firearms in public places in a major city and county. She says it's necessary to respond to violence that is out of control. Critics say it's unconstitutional. We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN News Central.

SANCHEZ: We begin with a major setback in the search for a killer. At any moment law enforcement officials in Chester County, Pennsylvania are gonna give us an update on the manhunt for 34-year-old Danelo Cavalcante now in its 12th day. The operation has gotten a lot harder, expanding miles beyond the location that police have been focusing on because the five-foot-tall fugitive was spotted more than 20 miles away from the search area and take a look. He looks different. A doorbell camera showing him clean-shaven and in a green hoodie. Over the weekend Pennsylvania State Police said the escape murderer stole a delivery van and tried to make contact with acquaintances, people that he knows in the area. CNN's Danny Freeman is live for us in Chester County following all of this. So, Danny, do we know how Cavalcante was able to get past officers?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listen, that's the big question that we've been having really for the past 48 hours and especially since yesterday, since we first learned that Cavalcante was able to slip this perimeter. I want to give you some context and I should note by the way we're of course waiting for that press conference expected to begin any moment, so I understand if you have to dip out. But just for some context here back on Friday we had the largest law enforcement presence just a few miles away in that main perimeter that police had been holding for the better part of two weeks and that was the spot that Cavalcante was able to slip out of. There were almost 400 officers out there. We saw troopers looking in

the back seats of cars, looking in trunks. That was the environment that Cavalcante was able to escape from. Here's a little bit more about what we learned yesterday specifically about this. He slipped the perimeter probably sometime on Saturday and then he stole a van from a nearby dairy farm and the reason he was able to steal that van was because the keys were in the car at the time. Then he drove a little more than 20 miles north of the perimeter, also north of the Chester County Prison where he escaped from, to the Phoenixville area. There we know that he tried to get in contact with a couple of associates that he had known before. Those associates did not help him at all. That's what he was looking for. He was looking for help. But because of those associates, because he tried to reach out, we got a glimpse of him on a ring doorbell camera and that's where you see the new images of Cavalcante, clean shaven, now wearing a green or yellowish hoodie that by the way, law enforcement says he got at that dairy farm where he also swiped the van.

So that was the last sighting that we know of back on Saturday evening when that ring camera was taken. Then we learned that on Sunday morning, law enforcement officials, they actually found that van outside of the Phoenixville area. But Cavalcante was nowhere to be found --

SANCHEZ: We're going to go live to officials now in Chester County who are providing us an update. Let's listen.


GEORGE BIVENS, LT. COL. (PA): Support all of you have given. Thank you very much for that support. At this time, we will be happy to take any questions you might have.

UNKNOWN: Do you have evidence that someone has tried to help him? Or is that why you arrested the sister?

BIVENS: The sister is an overstay and she chose not to not to assist and because of being in an overstay status, she has been entered into a deportation proceeding and is being detained at this time.

UNKNOWN: She chose not to help it. Not you wanted her to help you. She did not.

BIVENS: She has not assisted.



UNKNOWN: Do you have any evidence of anybody else who's tried to help him? You just put a warning out there. Do you have people who you know who did try to help him?

BIVENS: I'm cautioning people pre-emptively and yes, we are monitoring - we are monitoring for any possible help in a variety of ways. And so, what I would tell you is that if we detect assistance, that will be prosecuted. I'm not going to say anything further than that in terms of who may or may not have. What I'm going to say is, as a warning, you will be prosecuted. There is an alternative path to try and assist with his safe capture.

UNKNOWN: I want to touch base on the timeline here to make sure we have it correct. So, he shows up at these homes 10.30 he thinks, Saturday night. But yet people in the neighbourhood say police were not making checks until well after 2 o'clock in the morning. Is there any kind of delay here? The people at the church tell us they wouldn't start looking at the church until 3am (ph).

BIVENS: We weren't notified until well after midnight of the sightings.

UNKNOWN: So, 2 hours after he shows up at this house and has a conversation -

BIVENS: At least two hours.


UNKNOWN: -- 911 with that call from that family on the ring doorbell camera. Were there any issues? Can you walk us through - can you actually walk us through that entire sequence?

BIVENS: I'm not aware of any issues with the 911 system and I'm not going to comment further. What I'm going to tell you, I've already laid out what the timeline was and what I would tell you is that the individuals, so with for example, the one was not home at the time. They were utilizing a doorbell to speak with him. They arrived home sometime later, reviewed the video and contacted local police.

Whatever occurred there, we were not a part of it. We received the notice, and I gave you the time yesterday. I don't have it in front of me, but it was sometime around 12:30 as I recall. So, after midnight when we received the notice, and our investigators then began working on that information.


UNKNOWN: How many people were there in the area? Were they the only two places that you believe he was? Because we have neighbours in another community school neighbourhood telling us that there was a heavy police presence, that he was knocking on doors in that neighbourhood as well.

BIVENS: Those were the only two that we have reports that he communicated with anyone.

UNKNWON: Lieutenant Colonel, at this point, have there been any other visual confirmed sightings since this doorbell photo was released?

BIVENS: There have not.

UNKNOWN: Do you have any reason to believe that he's just vanished without a trace? Do you still believe he's within Pennsylvania? BIVENS: Well, of course he hasn't vanished without a trace and for a

variety of reasons, yes, I do believe that he is in Pennsylvania.

UNKNOWN: How many law enforcement personnel do you have working on this now and have you brought in additional resources?

BIVENS: That total right now is still probably hovering around the 300 mark and yes, we have brought in additional resources. So, we're switching some out. I described yesterday that today, as a matter of fact, we had planned a major push and so there were a lot more uniform resources, there were tactical teams, a very large number of tactical teams and a lot of other assets that would have been utilized. We have instead replaced some of those resources, certainly not all, with other investigative resources because as I told you, the investigation has shifted and so not only the state police but our federal partners as well have brought in additional resources that we believe will be useful going forward.

We collectively conduct fugitive investigations every day of the year and so this one is at a little different scale but it's the - it's the type of investigation each of our agencies works on -- on a very regular basis and we're now adjusting with the resources we believe we need.


UNKNOWN: Why weren't there assets at these acquaintances' homes before he made this appearance and are you doing that moving forward in this investigation? BIVENS: Well, when you say acquaintances' homes, what I would tell you

is that these people had not, to my knowledge, had any contact with Cavalcante for years. So, they were not friends, they were prior work associates, for example, and they were not people that -- we would have expected or that we would have known even to contact, again, from the distant past.


UNKNOWN: Sir, have you thought of raising the reward to $50,000 or $100,000 to help bring the justice sooner rather than later?

BIVENS: Well, no, again, right now we're announcing that the reward is at $25,000. I do believe that's a lot of money. I'm hard-pressed to believe that someone is sitting out there with information saying $25,000 is not enough. I suppose we'll consider things as we go forward, whether that will increase or not, but for right now that seems to be a pretty reasonable amount, I think.

UNKNOWN: Sir, with the reward, with no defined area to search, are you 100% reliant on public tips in order to find them?



UNKNOWN: There a lot of reports or rumors I could say that the Cavalcante sister previously was seen near the search perimeter at the U-Haul or some other type of vehicle? Is there any credence for that, that led to her arrest?

BIVENS: No, I've heard those reports. Her arrest was, again, because she is an overstay. That was a process that -- would play out for anyone in her same circumstance. And what I would say is she has failed to cooperate, and so there was no value in law enforcement keeping her here at this point.


UNKNOWN: What do you think, through the communication with the sister and acquaintances, what do you know about the resources he may have? Cell phone, money, food? What is he asking these people? Can you get a kind of diagnose of what kind of intelligence you've gathered?

GIVENS: No, I don't want to talk specifically about what I think he may or may not have or what he's looking for. Those are all pieces of our investigation, but I think it's, again, fair to say what I've said all along, and that is he needs additional help. He needs resources for the long run, and he is seeking those.


UNKNOWN: Have you sent a search to Berks County at all?

GIVENS: We don't have a defined search area at this point. We are considering and certainly acting on and investigating any piece of information or tip that we receive. And so, we follow those pieces of information with our investigation, as we have done right from the very start, regardless of where they are.

There are areas that I described, for example, in East Nantmeal Township, for example, that may have a little more of our focus of some of our resources that are more visible. But, again, that certainly is not a limiter at all for everything else that we're doing.

UNKNOWN: Speaking generally, why do you still believe he's in Pennsylvania?

BIVENS: Because I have no reason to believe that he is not. I don't believe he has the resources to get out of Pennsylvania. And, again, other pieces of information that we have generated within this investigation lead me to believe that he is still here.


UNKNOWN: Lieutenant Colonel, why arrest his sister now?

UNKNOWN: Does he have any other family members here that he's contacted?

BIVENS: I'm not going to talk about who we've contacted. He does still have some family and friends in the area, and we are aware of those. UNKNOWN: Lieutenant Colonel, why arrest his sister now? She previously testified at his trial in cooperation with prosecution. I assume her immigration status was known earlier in August. Why arrest her this week, or last week?

BIVENS: From my perspective, and while I don't have anything to do with the removal process, there is no reason for me to try to interfere in that process because she serves no value to the investigation, and she potentially could provide assistance. And I'm not confident that she would not in the future if we let her out there.

UNKNOWN: Can you talk about what led to the activity we saw last night? You said since the doorbell came up, there weren't any confirmed sightings. Could you expand on that a little bit?

BIVENS: We continue to receive a significant number of tips, and so, again, we will follow up on all of those. We have things that we are doing proactively, and so you may see some activity as a result of that. We have, you know, and I said there are other things that may not be so obvious that you won't see that are going on as well.


UNKNOWN: What are the terms of law enforcement, safety, and conservative efforts in terms of terrain? I mean, obviously this is a very rural area, and you spoke about yesterday how we didn't manage to play outside of the perimeter. So, what kind of challenges are we facing as a place?

BIVENS: Very similar challenges in terms of the search efforts, very similar challenges to what we have faced previously to this point. Unfortunately, we don't have a containment area right now, so that's another concern, another challenge. But, again, we're working through all of that, trying to pull together pieces of information so that we can narrow a search area and ultimately use those tools to be able to capture him.


UNKNOWN: How did he slip out of the previous search perimeter?

BIVENS: As I said yesterday, I don't have a definitive answer on that. I have my theories of how that happened, and I have those theories because I'm aware of the weaknesses that were in there. I explained yesterday that no perimeter is 100% secure. It's not a wall. It doesn't have a ceiling. It doesn't have, you know, all of the things that you might normally use if you're trying to contain someone. We use the human element. We use technology and so forth to be able to try and secure the perimeter as best we can.

I am aware of some of the weaknesses. Longwood Gardens presented some very unique challenges, and I believe he exploited one of those weaknesses.

UNKNOWN: Do you believe any mistakes were made that allowed him to get out of that perimeter?

BIVENS: I don't know that I would characterize it as a mistake. As I said, again, without knowing specifically what happened, what I would tell you is that I had concerns. I knew that there were weaknesses in that perimeter. It was a very strong perimeter as far as perimeters go, but there are always weaknesses in that place posed some very unique challenges. Perhaps when this is all over I can talk about some of those, but it was a very difficult place to try and secure.


UNKNOWN: Have you seen a lot of challenges, Lieutenant Colonel? You've got a far bigger area and no perimeter, and you really haven't gotten them locked in (INAUDIBLE)

BIVENS: We conduct, as I indicated, we conduct fugitive investigations every day of the year across this Commonwealth, as do our partners that are standing here with me. Each one of them poses a challenge. We are most often very successful in those. Most don't lead to a protracted search like this. I am confident that using all of those resources, we will ultimately bring this one to a successful conclusion as well.


UNKNOWN: Sir, it is September 11th, any thoughts to the men and women that are on the ground with you, federal, state and county law enforcement and local law enforcement at this day, these 12 days they're due for the convicted killer?

UNKNOWN: Certainly today is a day of remembrance and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of 9-11. But what I would tell you is that the men and women that are working here on this investigation are not pausing or taking a break. They are actively working and doing their jobs because that's what people expect them to do.

UNKNOWN: I have a question for Robert Clark. As far as -- how the marshals are now investigating, you mentioned before this was like a game of tactical game, cat and mouse. What changes now for your guys that are out there looking for him?

ROBERT CLARK, SUPERVISING DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL SERVICES: That's a good question. So, in the beginning, we were prepping here for the short game. We had a tactical response prepared in a certain area and while that response was being prepared, we had a group of investigators from the U.S. Marshals Service here, some of the brightest minds in the agency, having a contingency plan of what we were going to do, should he break perimeter or if he was outside that perimeter. So, we had proactively planned for this and I would say, you know, we have our pre-operational planning set, our tactical resources, our technical resources were all brought here and now we're planning for the long game.

The search in the woods was to Cavalcante's advantage. He was in an eight square mile area that was very difficult terrain, that was very difficult to get to and there were some weaknesses in the perimeter. I think the incident command here was great setting up the perimeter, bringing in the resources and doing the absolute best we could. We had, I think, over 200 law enforcement officers in or around that perimeter but now we're going to prepare for the long game and the long game is what we do best, the U.S. Marshals Service, like the colonel said, does fugitive investigations every day. This is a manhunt and all that means to us is that it's a longer fugitive investigation with more resources, so we are prepared.


UNKNOWN: Is Cavalcante playing more game now?

CLARK: I'm sorry?

UNKNOWN: Is Cavalcante playing more game now?

CLARK: Cavalcante is now, I think the advantage has switched to law enforcement. Before it was advantage Cavalcante, while he was playing that tactical hide and seek in the woods, now I believe it's advantage law enforcement because he's in an urban setting and that's what our investigators do best, the U.S. Marshals Service investigators, and we're force multiplied here by these other federal, state, and local agencies, so I believe the advantage has switched to law enforcement.

UNKNOWN: But what do you do, what is it that you do in this long game, in this urban setting? What technique do you go to the door when you come out?

CLARK: Well, there's a lot of different investigative techniques. I don't want to specify exactly what they are, but we're going to do the same thing we do every day in the city of Philadelphia. We're going to go out, we're going to talk to people, we're going to utilize the assets of the U.S. Marshals Service, certain investigative techniques that I don't want to reveal, but we're going to try to stay one step ahead.

UNKNOWN: You mentioned you called this in the perimeter. Is that based on resources or was that geographical?

CLARK: I'm sorry, the first part of your question?

UNKNOWN: You mentioned, you said that there were some weaknesses in the perimeter.

CLARK: Right.

UNKNOWN: Is that based on resources or was that more geographical?

CLARK: Maybe I misspoke, not weaknesses. There were a lot of challenges inside the perimeter. I believe the Lieutenant Colonel said yesterday, and he was very accurate because I've been in the inside of that perimeter, I was there with our investigators. There's a massive tunnel system, there's a lot of ravines, it's very, very thick vegetation there. It was a very, very difficult environment to maintain. UNKNOWN: Sir, you could call this the long game. Some people might think that means you don't expect to catch them soon. Is that the case?

CLARK: No, I mean, we expect to catch them as soon as possible, but we're not going to put all our ducks in a row and say, hey, we're going to have them by this Thursday. We're going to plan for a long investigation because we don't want to get caught planning for an immediate arrest and then we're not prepared later down the line.

UNKNOWN: Sir, given that he's very close to potentially French Creek Park, another vast area, are you also concentrating more fully on nature where he was successfully able to hide in the Southern Chester County area versus, you know, where 202 and other routes, there's cameras everywhere and that would be a way easier to find in the lieu of a cell phone or a debit card. Do you think he's in the woods right now still? Is that a disadvantage?


CLARK: Like the Colonel said, we're investigating that area in East Nantmeal until something suggests he's not in that area. We're going to continue to investigate there. I'd reiterate the message from the Colonel to the public. Please be vigilant in the areas that we're searching. Make sure your doors are locked. Make sure your car keys are secured in your residence. Report anything suspicious to law enforcement.

And if you have tips, call them in because we'd like to investigate 100 bad tips rather than miss that one good tip that's not called in.

UNKNOWN: Lieutenant Colonel, you're talking about protracted search. Has the Sergeant secured another vehicle since somebody's been there?

CLARK: Not that we're aware of. You talk about protracted search.

UNKNOWN: Another one that comes to mind would be freeing nearly 10 years ago. Went on for some days. What are some of the similarities and differences between these two searches?

CLARK: That's a question probably better for the Colonel.

BIVENS: Well, what I would tell you is every search has its challenges. Some of the similarities, large search area, very difficult to know exactly where he was. And I would tell you that almost nine years ago to the day, some of you all were standing with me in that area up there. And some of these same questions were being posed.

What makes us think we can catch him? He's a trained survivalist. And I would add that he had already shot two troopers at that point, and so it added another dimension to the whole thing. Some of those same challenges, some of those lessons learned from freeing have made us better as an agency. And we've taken those lessons and we adapt those here. There have been a number of searches between freeing and now. And again, we learn something from each one of those. We'll learn things from this search. In the end, collectively with our partners, we will be successful and we will capture him.


UNKNOWN: And then you have been continuing to say that you believe he's in Pennsylvania. Do you have any reason to believe he's still in Chester County?

BIVENS: Again, without information to the contrary, yes, I believe he's in Chester County. But with that said, we always consider other options. You know, the Marshal just said that we've had plans all along, and he's exactly right. We collectively have been discussing right from the very beginning. What if, what if, what if? It's, you know, when we can bring this group of experts that we've assembled here together, it makes for an amazing team.

There are a lot of good ideas, a lot of planning for contingencies, and a lot of great resources that are put to work out there in the field every day. We're trying to use the talents of all of those people and make this a successful operation.

UNKNOWN: We've seen a lot of reports of citizens arming themselves, sort of driving around the perimeter, expressing an interest in helping. Have you received any complaints or even made any arrests of people inappropriately walking through the perimeter or otherwise anything inappropriately?

BIVENS: We have not made any arrests. We have received calls from others about some of those citizens. We've investigated again. We have not made any arrests. And I would ask again that people consider not doing that. They're interfering in our investigation, potentially drawing resources away from the task at hand. We don't want an unfortunate incident to cause anyone to get hurt.

UNKNOWN: Do you tell your folks that they should now assume that because of his contact in different places that he's hot(ph), that he's obviously dangerous from his history, but now he's likely to have gotten a weapon somewhere?

We obviously have always treated him as being dangerous, and we have always treated him as potentially being armed.

BIVENS: He's been carrying a pack. There's no way to know exactly what's in that pack or what he obtained early on in this investigation and search. And so, we've always treated him as though he may be armed, and certainly with his history of being as dangerous as he is, having been charged with one homicide and now charged and convicted with a second, I think it's fair to say that he needs to be treated in that manner.


BIVENS: I'm sorry.

UNKNOWN: Do you plan to release the same camera interaction anytime soon for us to review?

BIVENS: I've not made a decision on that. I will tell you that it's in Portuguese, so it's not something that's easily reviewed anyway. It needs to be completely translated. We have done that for investigative purposes, but again, as I said yesterday, for me, the focus was on getting these photographs out. They really are the thing that provides value. And before we release full videos along with audio, we want to make sure that there's no impact on the investigation.

UNKNOWN: Yesterday you talked about a full sweep happening and doubling manpower and things of that nature. What's that full sweep involve? You also talked about previously 600 people and instead 300 people (ph). What happened with those numbers there?


BIVENS: Well, you're misunderstanding. So, what I was talking about was an operation that had been planned over the weekend to begin this morning and was to sweep the entire secured perimeter of Longwood Gardens and the surrounding property within that perimeter. And so, we had planned a very large operation in order to try and make sure we thoroughly searched those grounds. That was what I was talking about with those very large numbers. You know, Marshall mentioned, and I've alluded to them before, about the challenges in there. It is a unique place to search and really takes a lot of resources.

You know, when some of those sightings occurred in there, we had skilled tactical teams in there from multiple agencies. And even then, it was problematic to try and capture him or to find him again once a brief sighting occurred. The cover is that dense and just a multitude of places to hide.


SANCHEZ: You've been listening to Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens with the Pennsylvania State Police giving an update on the whereabouts of Danelo Cavalcante, this escaped convicted killer who's been on the run for 12 days now. State police saying that the investigation has now shifted with state and federal partners bringing in additional resources, adjusting to what is needed.

Officials saying, they believe he is still in Pennsylvania because he does not have the resources to get out of the state. In fact, officials were saying they believe he is still in Chester County, though there is no defined search area as of this moment. A couple of important nuggets from that press conference to point out.

Officials believe Cavalcante has now reached out to several people looking for assistance. They say he's desperate and needs help. In fact, this image was taken from a doorbell camera over the weekend. You can see he changed his appearance there. This is one of at least two instances in which this escaped killer has tried to seek help from people.

Officials in Pennsylvania warning anyone who might assist him, saying that those who may be aiding him will be prosecuted fully, but if you choose to cooperate with the investigation, you could be in line for a reward up to $25,000 in assistance and reward money for finding this convicted killer.

Also notably, Cavalcante, his sister has been arrested and is now in deportation proceedings. Officials saying that she was refusing to cooperate with the investigation. They also feared that she might help her brother in this attempted escape. Let's get some perspective now from CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey.

He's a former police commissioner in Philadelphia, not far from the area where this search is ongoing. Chief Ramsey, you've been listening to this press briefing. What most stands out to you now in the 12th day of this search?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, obviously it's become a little more complicated now. They don't have a defined search area any longer. And so, he was able to escape that. And I think it's important that people realize that was a very, very large area that they had to try to secure and create a perimeter around it. But it's not as if troopers are standing shoulder to shoulder.

I mean, you know, there are going to be some gaps there. There are going to be some weaknesses. And unfortunately, he was able to exploit a weakness and at least escape that particular area, find transportation, and then go to an area that he was familiar with, with people who he knew trying to get help.

He is desperate. He does need help. He needs transportation once again. And so, -- the warning that the colonel gave around making sure your vehicle is secure and all those kinds of things is very, very important because this guy needs to get out of the area. And the only way he can do that is if he can secure transportation.

SANCHEZ: Chief Ramsey, one of the things that stood out to me hearing from Lieutenant Colonel Bivens was that officials are now monitoring people that he may potentially reach out to. I'm wondering what that looks like.

RAMSEY: Well, they've got to set up surveillances. They reach out to people in advance and tell them, listen, if he does reach out to you, you need to give us a call. It will give them a number, not the number that everyone has, the Manhunt tip line. It will be a different number so they can, you know, answer the call quickly and then, you know, set him up.

I mean, pretty much work with this person to try to get him to come out so that they can get their hands on him. I mean, so right now they're going through that process. They're not going to put a whole lot out publicly around that sort of thing. But that's what they're doing now.