A family’s search for their missing loved one came to a tragic end last week after the remains found off Route 95 in Canton was identified as 21-year-old Joey Brancato.
Brancato, a 21-year-old Winthrop native with strong family ties to East Boston, was last seen in Roslindale at 10 Mendelsohn St. in the company of his Marine Recruiter U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Frank Lipka just before Thanksgiving.
“Hours after his discovery, by a motorist who had stopped in the breakdown lane of the highway, Mr. Brancato was removed to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Boston where his identity was confirmed,” said the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office in a statement. “An autopsy performed today (March 29, 2018) did not immediately establish cause or manner of death. Cause and manner of death remain undetermined and under investigation pending further testing.The matter remains under active investigation by Massachusetts State Police detectives attached to the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office working with Boston Police detectives.”
Lipka was named a ‘person of interest’ by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office last week after Brancato’s remains were found.
According to his family, Brancato, who had some missteps in life, was on the straight and narrow and was excited to start a new chapter in his life by joining the U.S. Marines.
Following Brancato’s disappearance in November, the recruiters office in Roslindale where Lipka had worked and Brancato was being recruited was closed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) for about two weeks in December and evidence tape was placed on the doors. According to police, all of Brancato’s personal belongings, including his cell phone, were allegedly left at Lipka’s house when he went missing.
The NCIS confirmed they were assisting Boston Police with this missing person case and that the Marine Corps Recruiting Office at 1408 Centre St. Roslindale had been searched as part of the investigation and was closed for those two weeks in December.
In February investigators searched Turtle Pond in West Roxbury in connection with Brancato’s disappearance but nothing was found.
On February 1, Lipka was arrested and transported by Marines from Boston to a military brig in Charleston, South Carolina according to NCIS on charges unrelated to Brancato’s disappearance. Lipka was arrested by the Marines for a drunk driving charge in Jamaica Plain, absence without authorization from work and an altercation with two other Marines in his unit.
“Marine Gunnery Sergeant Frank Lipka is in military custody at the consolidated brig in Charleston South Carolina,” said NCIS in a statement. “Lipka was the sole recruiter at the Roslindale recruiting office where Marine Recruit Joseph Brancato was being processed. Recruit Brancato was reported missing November 22.”
Lipka was released from the brig on March 21 and sent back to Boston. He was taken into custody by police at Boston Logan Airport to answer to charges of threatening a Boston pizza delivery man with a gun back in September. In that case Lipka, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was held on $10,000 cash bail and ordered to surrender his passport and wear a GPS monitor at his March 26 arraignment.