Prosecutor: Marine recruiter is 'person of interest' in disappearance of recruit

Frank Walter Lipka, right, is being investigated by Boston police for the disappearance of his roommate, Joseph Brancato. The two are shown here in this undated photo from social media.


By ANTONIO PLANAS | The Boston Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: March 27, 2018

A Suffolk prosecutor today said a U.S. Marine recruiter is a "person of interest" in the disappearance of a 21-year-old Boston recruit.

Frank Walter Lipka, 39, is being investigated by Boston police for the disappearance of his roommate, Joseph Brancato, 21, prosecutor Michael Lefleur said. Brancato, a Marine recruit, reportedly was last seen in November.

Lipka was held on $10,000 cash bail today on an unrelated assault with a dangerous weapon charge.

The suspect took out a gun when a food delivery man came to his Roslindale home on Sept. 3, 2017, Lefleur said in West Roxbury District Court today.

Police learned of the incident during the "ongoing investigation into the disappearance of Mr. Brancato," Lafleur said.

"The defendant is aware of the ongoing investigation," Lafleur said. "He is a person of interest in that case."

Several of Brancato's relatives attended the hearing. Brancato's grandmother, Mildred Lebaron of Winthrop, said before his disappearance, she had been happy he was living with a recruiter.

Now, she said, is holding out hope he remains alive.

"I'm praying to God every day," Lebaron said. "That's all I got left. Dear God, I pray that some miracle happens. That my Joey comes walking through that door."

Brancato lived in Winthrop before moving in with Lipka in Roslindale, Lebaron said.

Judge David Breen held Lipka on $10,000 cash bail, placed him on a GPS monitor if he posts bail and made him surrender his passport. The court entered a not guilty charge on his behalf.

Before his arrest, defense attorney Timothy Bransfield said, Lipka had been held in military custody at the request of Boston police, who regarded him as a flight risk.

Lafleur called Lipka a flight risk because he is fluent in Mandarin and Russian and also an expert in computer forensics.

Lipka was arrested Friday at Logan International Airport while on his way to be discharged from the military, Lafleur said.

The defendant, who Breen allowed to stay behind a cracked doorway at his defense attorney's request, is facing assault with a dangerous weapon and unlawful possession of ammunition charges. During a search of Lipka's home, Lafleur said, bb guns were found along with an empty box for a Glock 27.

Bransfield referred to his client as a "patriot."

"He is someone who was deployed to fight our wars, our battles for us -- for this country,"Bransfield said. "He is a country boy from Virginia and a lover of this country."

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