Ex-Marine Who Let Missing Recruit Live in His Apartment Is Now 'Person of Interest' in Disappearance
Joey Brancato, 21, was last seen by an acquaintance on Nov. 18, 2017
A former Marine recruiter who let a recent recruit live in his apartment is now considered a “person of interest” in the recruit’s November disappearance, a prosecutor said Monday in a Massachusetts courtroom.
Frank Walter Lipka, 39, faces no charges related to the missing persons case of Joseph “Joey” Brancato, 21, who was last seen on Nov. 18, 2017, according to an alert issued by Boston Police.
Lipka was arraigned Monday in an unrelated case on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of ammunition, according to a statement obtained by PEOPLE from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.
According to the Boston Herald, Assistant District Attorney Michael Lafleer referenced the Brancato disappearance and said of Lipka, “He is a person of interest in that case.”
In the assault case, Lipka, of Roslindale, allegedly pulled a gun on a food delivery man who came to his door on Sept. 3, 2017 — an alleged crime police became aware of during their “ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Brancato,” Lafleur said, the Herald reports.
The court entered a not guilty plea on Lipka’s behalf in the alleged assault, and Judge David Breen set bail at $10,000, further ordering Lipka to surrender his passport, wear a GPS monitor, and have no contact with witnesses in the case if he posts bond and is released, the prosecutor’s office statement said.
He is currently in Suffolk County Jail, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office confirms to PEOPLE.
Prior to his arrest Friday at Boston’s Logan International Airport, Lipka had been held in military custody at the request of Boston Police, his defense attorney Timothy Bransfield said, according to the Herald.
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A call by PEOPLE to Bransfield was not immediately returned.
Lipka, whose office with the Marines was in Roslindale, had recently been dishonorably discharged, reports local TV station Fox25 Boston.
‘Our Family Is Devastated Without Joey’
Brancato’s family said the 21-year-old from Winthrop, Massachusetts, had moved into Lipka’s Roslindale apartment with him last fall, according to Fox25.
“I guess the recruiter said, ‘I can help you out, you can live in my basement,'” Brancato’s aunt Dawn Buccieri told New England Cable News in January, adding that some family members were not pleased with the arrangement.
A white male who stands 5-feet-8-inches tall and weighs about 200 pounds, Brancato was last seen by an acquaintance and left his personal items at Lipka’s home when he vanished, according to the website MissingVeterans.com.
His family had hoped to glimpse Lipka at Monday’s hearing but he was kept out of their view.
“If he cares about Joey, if he was worried about Joey’s well-being, why wasn’t he searching the woods with us?” Brancato’s cousin, Nicole DaSilva, told Fox25. “Why wasn’t he providing us with information? Why did he shut down and ask for an attorney?”
DaSilva created a YouCaring fundraising page, promoting the family’s request for help to hire a private investigator in their search for answers about Brancato’s fate or whereabouts.
“Our family is devastated without Joey and we don’t know what else to do,” it states.
In her Facebook feed filled with photos of her son, Brancato’s mother, Kim Lebaron Brancato, observed the 4-month anniversary of his disappearance.
“My heart is broken, I’m lost, sick and need some closure,” she wrote. “Joey didn’t just disappear please help I’m having [a] hard time going on without him, at least if I had some answers please someone knows something.”
Boston Police request that tips be called in to (617) 343-4566.