Former Marine recruiter named person of interest in man's disappearance

BOSTON — A Marine recruiter who has been questioned in the disappearance of a Winthrop recruit appeared in court Monday.

He’s been brought to Massachusetts from South Carolina to face gun charges, but the family of the missing man is hoping he can provide more information.

Frank Lipka’s court appearance is unrelated to the missing person’s case of Joey Brancato, but it’s a ray of hope for Brancato’s family, which hopes to get answers from the man who authorities believe was the last person to see him.

Lipka was a Marine recruiter in the Roslindale office, which was the location Brancato was being processed to join the Marines.

The 21-year-old was last seen in November.

"I'm praying to God every night, that's all I got left, is to pray to God. I pray that some miracle happens. And that my Joey comes walking through that door," said Brancato's grandmother Midge Lebaron.

His family told Boston 25 News that from September to November, Brancato was training with the Marine recruiter to realize his dream of becoming a U.S. Marine.

The family said Brancato was living with Lipka at his Roslindale apartment, which is a violation of Marine regulations.

After Brancato’s disappearance, Boston police searched Turtle Pond and investigators searched and closed Lipka’s Roslindale recruitment center.

Lipka was dishonorably discharged from the Marines. He was arrested when he came back to Boston, and, Monday, appeared in court.

“If he cares about Joey, if he was worried about Joey’s well-being, why wasn’t he searching the woods with us,” cousin Nicole DaSilva asked. “Why wasn’t he providing us with information? Why did he shut down and ask for an attorney?”

Lipka is facing assault and weapons charges for an incident in September when a food delivery driver told police that Lipka threatened him with a gun.

In court, for the first time, Brancato's family heard Lipka is a central figure in Joey's disappearance.

"The defendant is aware of the ongoing investigation. He's a person of interest in that case," said the district attorney.