Police to search for remains of Jimmy Hoffa under driveway in Roseville

David Ashenfelter:
Detroit Free Press
27, 2012

Police will be taking soil core samples at a home in Roseville on Friday in search of the remains of missing Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, whose 1975 disappearance sparked one of the 20th century’s biggest mysteries.

“We received information from an individual who saw something,” Roseville Police Chief James Berlin told the Free Press. “The information seemed credible, so we decided to follow up on it.”

Berlin wouldn’t say who provided the tip — one of hundreds authorities have pursued in the years since Hoffa vanished from a restaurant parking lot in Oakland County.

But he said the state’s Department of Environmental Quality used ground scanning radar last Friday to check out a spot under the driveway and found “an anomaly” that prompted authorities to make plans to return to the site Friday to take a soil sample.

Berlin said it would be sent to a forensic anthropologist at Michigan State University to check for human remains.

“We do not know if this is Jimmy,” Berlin said.

The tipster told police Hoffa’s body may have been buried under the driveway of the home in the 18700 block of Florida, a residential neighborhood northwest of 12 Mile and Gratiot.

Berlin said the informant “thought it was Jimmy because the same time this happened was the same time Jimmy disappeared,” Berlin said.

Berlin said he planned to contact the FBI, which has spearheaded the three-decades-old murder investigation.

“We believe he saw something,” Berlin said of the informant. “Whatever he saw was suspicious.”

Hoffa, 62, disappeared on the afternoon of July 30, 1975, from the parking lot of what then was the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township.

He had gone there for a reconciliation meeting with Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano, a mob-connected New Jersey Teamster official, and Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone, a Detroit mafia captain.

The FBI theorized that Provenzano and Giacalone had Hoffa killed to prevent him from regaining the Teamsters presidency and ending the mob’s influence over the union and easy access to Teamster pension funds.

Hoffa had run the union from 1957-71.

At the time of his disappearance, Hoffa had served nearly five years of an 8- to 13-year prison sentence for fraud, conspiracy and jury tampering. Then-President Richard Nixon had commuted Hoffa’s sentence in late 1971 on condition that he stay out of union activities until 1980. Hoffa was in the process of challenging the condition.

The FBI theorized that Hoffa climbed into a car driven by Hoffa’s long-time protégé, Charles (Chuckie) O’Brien, and was driven a short distance where he was killed. Authorities believed Hoffa’s body was shredded or incinerated.

Despite thousands of tips, authorities never found Hoffa’s body, and no one has been charged in his disappearance.

A woman who answered the phone at the Roseville home says she is “fully aware of what’s going on,” but she said she didn’t want to be interviewed at this point. She referred questions to the Roseville Police department.

Police said the homeowner, who has owned the house for 10 to 15 years, has been helpful and cooperative.

Daughter not hopeful

Hoffa’s daughter, Barbara Crancer, a retired St. Louis administrative judge, said she doesn’t hold out much hope the search will produce her father’s body or solve the mystery of his disappearance.

“I don’t put much credence into it,” she said this afternoon. “I don’t think the case will ever be solved. Too many people are dead and gone. I believe there are people out there who know what happened, but they’re not talking.”

“After so many false turns, I’ll be surprised if anything comes of it. But as his daughter, I would like to have a body to bury.”

Dan Moldea, a Washington, D.C., author who wrote a 1978 book — “The Hoffa Wars” — about Hoffa’s disappearance, said he’s crossing his fingers.

“After all these years, I have come to believe that the final solution to this case will come very suddenly out of left field from someone who has had no connection to the actual murder. For that reason, I always treat these tipsters with respect. One of these days, one of them might be right."

The Teamsters union in Washington, D.C., said it would have no comment.

The Detroit FBI field office had no comment.

Word spreads

Reporters and TV live trucks have been congregating at the house, lining Kelly near Florida, as word got out of the Hoffa search. Two police cars also are guarding the area.

Some neighbors are outside talking about the news, describing their reactions as surprise.

“When I heard that, I couldn’t believe it,” said Sue Fero-Hutton, 66. “After all these years.”

She said she doesn’t think there’s any truth to it and has lived in her home near the area in question since 1994.

Fero-Hutton said her father knew Hoffa personally because her father was a union representative.

“When I heard the rumor about Jimmy Hoffa, I said I wish my dad was alive so I could talk to him about it,” she said.

Other neighbors said they’ll wait and see what is found.

“Every couple of years, they seem to look for him. I’m sure his family probably wants the mystery solved,” said Cindy Kacir, 52, who lives across the street from the home.

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