Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Case That Cried Wolf

Unless you're a member of Jimmy Hoffa's immediate family, do you really care what happened to his body? I mean, anymore?

The former Teamsters boss, who vanished on July 30, 1975 outside the Machus Red Fox restaurant at Telegraph and Maple, has been rumored to be buried, ground up, etc. in a variety of locales, from Michigan to New Jersey. In the 37+ years since Hoffa's disappearance, there has been no shortage of theories as to his final resting place, nor a shortage of "insiders" who purport to know the real deal.

The latest tipster is 85-year-old Tony Zerilli, son of reputed Detroit mob boss Joseph Zerilli. The younger Zerilli says that Hoffa was buried under a field in northern Oakland County, and that investigators could find Hoffa there right now, should they choose to look. Zerilli unveiled his story to WNBC-TV.

Zerilli has some credibility, apparently.

He was in a position to know secrets---including the fate of Hoffa, who was the former president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters---said John Anthony, who worked the case as an FBI agent and later served as an FBI spokesman.

"The source of the information is the most credible I've seen in 30 years," Anthony said Monday. "(Zerilli) is high enough up the food chain."

We'll see.

But even if Zerilli is right, even if he, after all these years, is the guy who finally provides closure as to what Hoffa's killers did with the body, how much of an impact does that have for you?

Frankly, I think I might respond to the news with little more than, "Huh!"

Then I'd go back to my regularly scheduled day.

Hoffa is dead. That much is clear. Same with Amelia Earhart, the doomed pilot whose fate has been another of America's great mysteries. But, like Earhart, Hoffa's final location doesn't really change anything. It's nice to know, but it's not Earth-shattering news. Not to me, anyhow.

If Zerilli is right about Hoffa's body (east of Adams Road off  Buell Road), then yes, we could all cross that off our "must know" list. But it's hardly a bucket-type list. I could go to my grave peacefully not knowing what ultimately happened to Jimmy Hoffa. 

How about you?


Tony Zerilli, circa 1996

I just think that the Hoffa thing has a certain "Boy who cried wolf" aspect to it. 

Three higher profile examples, as cited by the Free Press, of Hoffa theories:

May 28, 2004: Oakland County detectives remove floorboards from a house in northwest Detroit after a Fox News Channel team finds indications of blood. Frank (the Irishman) Sheeran, who claims in a biography by Charles Brandt that he killed Hoffa in the house, told the news team how to find it. The FBI crime lab later says the blood found in the boards is human, but it is not Hoffa’s.

• May 17, 2006: FBI agents begin digging at the 89-acre Hidden Dreams Farm near Milford after a convict told them Hoffa was buried there when the property was owned by Rolland McMaster, a former metro Detroit Teamster official and early suspect in Hoffa’s disappearance. Agents describe the tip as the best lead to date, but the 14-day search — which was estimated to cost around $250,000 and included razing a horse barn — finds no trace of Hoffa.

• Sept. 28, 2012: Authorities bore under the driveway of a Roseville home after an outstate Michigan man says a previous homeowner — whom he describes as a bookmaker for the late Anthony (Tony Jack) Giacalone, a Detroit Mafia captain and suspect in Hoffa’s disappearance — was up all night pouring concrete the day Hoffa disappeared. But an anthropologist at Michigan State University looks at 4-inch samples of mud and clay and says no human remains are present.

Tony Zerilli has some connections. He knew certain people who knew certain people, who knew certain things. Or so he says. Plans are already in the works to flesh Zerilli's story out, including properly vetting the man.

The FBI has always thought that reputed mobster and Teamster official Tony Provenzano and Detroit mob captain Anthony Giacalone had Hoffa killed to prevent him from regaining the Teamsters presidency, ending the mob's influence over the union and its easy access to Teamster pension funds. Hoffa ran the union in 1957-71.

What the Bureau hasn't been so quick to determine is what happened to Hoffa's remains.

After over 37 years, do we really care anymore?

I don't.

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