A Marine gunnery sergeant who recruited a 21-year-old Winthrop man who has been missing since mid-November is in military custody, according to a Navy official.
Frank Lipka was the sole recruiter at the Roslindale office where Marine recruit Joseph Brancato was processed, said Ed Buice, a spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, in an e-mail.
Brancato was last seen on Nov. 18 in Roslindale’s Mendelssohn Street area, where he was living and training with Lipka in the hopes of passing the physical tests necessary to become a Marine, said Brancato’s aunt, Andrea Brancato Walke.
Lipka was taken into custody sometime last week, and is currently being held at the consolidated brig in Charleston, S.C., said Buice in the e-mail. Lipka faces charges that are unrelated to the ongoing investigation into Brancato’s disappearance, said Buice . He did not detail the nature of the charges facing Lipka, saying that NCIS did not take Lipka into custody.
Messages left with media liaisons for the US Marines Corps were not immediately returned Thursday evening.
Brancato Walke remains convinced Lipka had something to do with her nephew’s disappearance.
“He absolutely has something to do with it,” she said during a phone interview on Thursday.
Brancato, who has an older brother and two younger sisters, had wanted to become a Marine, but was rejected from that service at least twice, said his aunt. She did not know why.
Brancato, a welder by trade who had been living with his mother and grandmother in Winthrop, moved in with Lipka in September to get into shape. The two trained together, said Brancato Walke.
Becoming a Marine was her nephew’s dream, she said.
“He’s always helping people, and he felt like that was his place to help the country,” she said.
Authorities searched woods near Turtle Pond in the Stony Brook Reservation in Hyde Park for Brancato last month. Family members continue to comb the reservation every weekend for Brancato, said Brancato Walke.
“Why aren’t the Marines doing something, that’s what I’d like to know,” said Brancato Walke. “Why haven’t they stepped up?”Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.