UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - Prince George's County authorities are investigating to see if a body found near a park in Upper Marlboro on Sunday is that of an elderly man who was reported missing almost a month ago.
Lubin Phipps, 80, was last seen a senior picnic at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro on Thursday, September 18. Phipps, who suffered from dementia, was thought to have wandered away from the group. Authorities and family members searched the area extensively.
On Sunday, search and rescue teams recovered a body they presume to be that of Phipps.
"It's very heartbreaking and it's difficult to deal with because we didn't expect that his last day would be spent out there for however long he was out there," said Phipps' daughter, Michelle. "We didn't get that chance to give him that final hug and just to talk about planning for the upcoming holidays. It's just been very difficult for the family."
Police say the body was found in a field very close to Watkins Regional Park, but they have not given an exact location.
Police say the autopsy is still pending, and it will be some time before there is a positive identification on the person found.
While officials have not yet identified the person found, family members of Phipps issued a statement thanking the public for their assistance, and they also held a press conference on Monday afternoon. Phipps' family is calling his death a homicide and said they are calling for a criminal and civil investigation into his disappearance.
"At this point, the unfolding off facts can be characterized as anything else but a homicide, meriting the level of detailed investigation to which all homicides are subject," said Edward Leyden, the family's attorney.
The 80-year-old had been living at Woodmore House Assisted Living in Upper Marlboro for five years. His family said the staff there had asked them for permission on previous occasions before taking him off their premises. But they said they were not notified that Phipps was taken on the picnic until after he disappeared.
"We trusted Woodmore House Assisted Living with our father and we had hope they would keep him safe and they would provide good care," said Michelle Phipps. "And it's obvious that didn't happen."
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says in a statement they do have ongoing investigations at the center's adult medical daycare and assisted living facility.
The family is now planning funeral and memorial services that will take place both here and in St. Thomas.