Volunteers, K-9s hold search mission to locate missing 59-year-old Old Brooklyn man


Benton Zastawnik (Courtesy: Cleveland Police Department)

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CLEVELAND — Volunteers and K-9s with the Big Creek Search Dog team spent Sunday morning searching for a Cleveland man that police believe to be missing and endangered.

Ben Zastawnik, 59, was last seen Wednesday, December 19 near his home on Plymouth Road. Cleveland police put out a missing and endangered alert for Ben on December 23.

His wife, Polly Zastawnik, has been handing out fliers for the past 11 days with his picture on it.

“I’ve been working non-stop since this happened, trying to find him. So, if you see something, say something,” Zastawnik said.

What worries her most is that Ben left his wallet, money, glasses and medication behind.  She’s worried about his mental health or if he was harmed.

“My biggest concern is for his state of mind because he does take medication that he is not taking now for seizures and anti-depressants, and just his state of mind when he went missing. He’s been really hard on himself,” Zastawnik said.

Sunday, the Big Creek Search Dog Team from Lake County showed up in the Zastawniks’ neighborhood with 14 volunteers and several search dogs. They canvassed a half of a mile area around the Zastawniks’ home. The volunteers and K-9s searched parks, ravines and vacant garages.

Courtesy: Big Creek Search Dog Team

“We’ve deployed K-9 teams,” said Will Rosch with the Big Creek Search Dog Team. “There’s a park behind the house about a half of a mile long. We’ve deployed some ground searchers and K-9s, so we’re searching the park. We’re also deploying some ground searchers here in the neighborhood, checking buildings, garages and sheds.”

Ben’s wife said he missed Christmas and spending time with his young grandchildren.

“I would have never guessed something like this would happen in a million years, in a million years. He’s never gone and not said he’s going somewhere,” Zastawnik said.

The Big Creek Search Dog Team is working in collaboration with police, but brings their own resources.

Since 2005, the trained volunteers who rely on donations and fundraisers, have found 15 people— some alive, some deceased and some who had committed suicide.

“Our team has certified cadaver dogs, scent specific tracking dogs, wilderness area search and dogs that are certified from boats for drowning victims. We have four different disciplines that we use and all of the people who are out here are all certified ground searchers by the National Search and Rescue,” Rosch said.

Zastawnik said there’s a $1,000 reward for the first tip that leads to finding Ben.

The search for Ben was called off Sunday afternoon.

For more information on the Big Creek Search Dog Team you can visit their Facebook page, here.

Anyone with information regarding Ben’s whereabouts is asked to contact Cleveland police at (216) 623-5200.

You can also contact Will Rosch from Big Creek Search Dog Team at (440) 417-4557 or Polly Zastawnik at (216) 906-6861.

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