People photograph the driveway in Roseville, Mich., Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 where police plan to take soil samples from under Friday after a tipster said it could be the final resting place of missing Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa. Roseville Police Chief James Berlin says a man claims to have seen a body buried there approximately 35 years ago. Berlin says the man believes it could be Hoffa. Hoffa disappeared in suburban Detroit in 1975, and his remains haven't been found.
Photo credit: (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Sept. 27--Roseville police plan to bore under a residential driveway today or Friday, pursuing a tip that missing Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa may be buried there.
Police said ground-penetrating radar revealed something under the concrete, and they want to know whether it is human remains.
Roseville Police Chief James Berlin wouldn't say who provided the tip -- one of thousands authorities have followed since Hoffa vanished from a restaurant parking lot in Oakland County in 1975, sparking one of the 20th Century's most enduring mysteries.
"We received information from an individual who saw something," Berlin told the Free Press on Wednesday. "The information seemed credible, so we decided to follow up on it."
After interviewing the tipster, Berlin said he contacted the Michigan State Police, which recommended calling in the state's Department of Environmental Quality to scan the driveway with the radar.
The scan, conducted last Friday, revealed an anomaly about 2 feet underground. Berlin said authorities plan to return to the site to take a core soil sample that will be examined for human remains by a forensic anthropologist at Michigan State University.
Berlin said he hoped to have the results next week. If they come back positive, his department will have the driveway excavated.
"We do not know if this is Jimmy," Berlin cautioned, adding the anomaly could be a dead dog or a tree root. If there is a body and it isn't Hoffa, he said, it could still help solve another homicide.
This week's search is the latest of many. In 2006, the FBI spent 14 days digging at a horse farm in Milford in an unsuccessful effort to find Hoffa's remains.
Berlin questioned the likelihood of finding Hoffa's body under the driveway. The FBI declined to comment Wednesday.
"It's kind of hard to believe they'd drive Jimmy over here and bury him," he said, referring to Hoffa's killers.
The driveway is behind a one-story brick home on a corner in the 18700 block of Florida, a residential neighborhood northwest of 12 Mile and Gratiot.
A woman who answered the phone at the home says she is "fully aware of what's going on," but didn't want to be interviewed.
Police said the homeowner, who has owned the house for many years but not when Hoffa disappeared, has been helpful and cooperative.
Soon after the Free Press broke the story Wednesday afternoon on freep.com, reporters and TV trucks began pulling up to the house.
Hoffa, 62, disappeared on the afternoon of July 30, 1975, from the parking lot of what was then 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 ran the union in 1957-71.
At the time of his disappearance, Hoffa had served nearly five years of an eight- 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 that condition.
The FBI theorized that Hoffa climbed into a car driven by his longtime protege, Charles (Chuckie) O'Brien, and was driven a short distance to 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.
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. "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."
She added, "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."
The latest tipster, an elderly outstate resident who once lived in metro Detroit, told the Free Press that the man who once lived in the Roseville house was a bookie for Anthony Giacalone.
The day Hoffa disappeared, the tipster said, the bookie stayed up all night mixing and pouring concrete for a driveway.
The Free Press attempted to contact the former resident, but he could not be reached. Macomb County court records indicate the man was charged in the early 1990s with a gambling offense, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.
The tipster told the Free Press he waited three decades to approach authorities because he was afraid of being killed. He said he finally went to the FBI a few years ago, but was rebuffed.
He said he decided to contact Roseville police after getting nowhere with the news media, who he wanted to arrange to have the driveway dug up. He said he hoped to collect the $300,000 reward that was once offered for information leading to Hoffa's whereabouts.
Crancer and the Teamsters said Wednesday that the family and the union are no longer offering a reward.
A shed and concrete driveway are behind the house, and a police officer was parked nearby Wednesday. While TV news trucks parked outside the house, neighbors gathered -- some taking pictures with kids who are young enough that they've never heard of Hoffa.
"Anything's possible," said Cathy Kohl, 52, who lives across the street. She has been in her house since 1987.
Jennifer Snitko, 40, of Roseville drove to the area and walked past the house.
"They've been looking a long time," she said. "If he is, that's a piece of history."
Berlin said police believe the informant saw something. But later Wednesday, in front of the house, he said: "We don't believe the time lines add up to coincide with Jimmy's disappearance."
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."
Copyright 2012 - Detroit Free Press