Missing Marine contacted, NCIS says, but family still searching for him

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A Marine who was reported missing after he failed to report for duty and his bank account was reportedly emptied has been contacted by law enforcement, but a group aiding in the search says his family still has not heard from him.

Marine Corporal Charles Alex Benfield was reported missing from Southern California’s Camp Pendleton last week. Prior to his disappearance, Benfield was detained in downtown San Diego for public intoxication and was later released on Sunday, April 14, from the McAlister Institute Recovery and Bridge Center.

Sarah Lazo, Benfield’s sister, told Nexstar’s KSWB/KUSI that front desk workers at the center relayed to authorities their last encounter with the Marine.

Marine Corporal Charles Alex Benfield (Photo shared with KSWB/KUSI by Benfield’s family)

Marine Corporal Charles Alex Benfield (Photo shared with KSWB/KUSI by Benfield’s family)

“He was saying how he was scared, he was going to lose his rank because they had to meet that following morning at 8 a.m., which he had obviously missed,” she said. “He said he needed to find his phone, so he was going to go search for that.”

Shortly after, a communications director for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which Benfield belongs to, made a statement announcing Benfield “did not report for duty the morning of April 15 following weekend liberty in the San Diego area.”

Benfield loved his job, according to his family, and just reenlisted for four more years with the Marines this past fall. Lazo said they were also able to determine that his bank had “been cleared out.”

“There was no money left in it. There were several big amounts of money taken out at different ATMs,” Lazo said.

The Marine Corps requested the assistance of NCIS, which confirmed Wednesday that Benfield was successfully contacted by law enforcement on Saturday, April 20. A spokesperson said Benfield “was reported to be safe and is no longer considered a missing person.”

A nonprofit organization, The RAD Movement, has been working with and supporting Benfield’s family in the search. Founder Sharie Finn says Benfield was encountered by U.S. Border Patrol; however, his command and his family, along with her organization, have not heard from him directly.

“When an adult goes missing in California, they are reported missing,” Finn explained to KSWB/KUSI on Wednesday. “If any law enforcement agency encounters them, they simply ask them, ‘Are you a danger to yourself? Do you feel safe?’ If that individual says, ‘I am not a danger to myself and I feel safe,’ they are free to go. So in this case, that occurred.”

Finn says the last confirmed sighting of Benfield was at a Chevron gas station in Ocotillo, California, just a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. She said he had indicated to a store clerk at another market that he was hiking cross country.

“He has a T-shirt on, a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt and a plastic bag,” Finn said. “But he by no means is prepared with the backpack and the supplies to travel cross-country.”

Finn says her organization will continue searching for him.

“We have resources on the ground over there,” Finn said, adding that they’ve alerted officials in El Centro, California, and Yuma, Arizona, as those “would be the next stops along the way, provided he makes it that far.”

Benfield’s family has created a Facebook page detailing more information about their search.

KSWB/KUSI has reached out to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for comment.

Kasia Gregorczyk contributed to this report.

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