FBI search team focuses on spot K9 flagged in Hoffa search

June 18, 2013 at 5:02 PM
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OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich., June 18 (UPI) -- A cadaver dog that's part of an FBI search team has flagged a location in a Michigan field where an aging mobster says Jimmy Hoffa is buried, officials said.

Anthony Joseph "Tony" Zerilli, 85, a reputed former underboss of the Detroit Partnership criminal organization, said through his attorney and in a manuscript Hoffa was buried in a shallow grave in a field 30 miles north of Detroit underneath a concrete slab.

The Detroit News said the investigation team, which includes local, state and federal law enforcement, located the concrete slab but the FBI declined to comment on specifics of the investigation. A cadaver dog patrolling the field also flagged another location not near the slab though Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said he wasn't convinced the dog had found a conclusive hit.

Hoffa, who ran the Teamsters union and was alleged to have been involved with organized crime, disappeared from a restaurant parking lot about 25 miles northwest of Detroit July 30, 1975. He was 62.

No body was found. His disappearance gave rise to many theories about what happened to him and where his body was hidden. Hoffa was declared legally dead July 30, 1982.

"Hoffa's body is in the field, no doubt about it," Zerilli attorney David Chasnick told reporters Monday across the street from the FBI dig.

"There was an old house with an old barn on the property," Zerilli wrote in the manuscript.

"As soon as they pulled near the barn, Hoffa was dragged out of the car, and bound and gagged," the manuscript says. "A shallow hole was already dug in the barn floor. He put up a fight, but he was easily overpowered. ...

"[One of the men] picked up a shovel and cracked Hoffa over the head with it. ... They threw him into the hole, and buried him alive.

"He wasn't shot, he wasn't stabbed, nothing like that. A cement slab of some sort was placed on top of the dirt to make certain he was not going to be discovered. And that was it. End of story," Zerilli wrote.

Zerilli was in jail when Hoffa disappeared, but was the son of reputed Detroit gangster Joseph Zerilli, alleged to have led the Cosa Nostra's Partnership from the 1930s through the 1970s. The older Zerilli died in 1977.

"It's my fondest hope that we can give ... closure not just to the Hoffa family, but also to the community and stop tearing that scab off with every new lead and bring some conclusion," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard was quoted by the Detroit Free Press as saying. "It's long overdue."

Barbara Ann Crancer, Hoffa's daughter and a retired judge, said the FBI notified her family of the resumed search, though she was skeptical her father's body was at the site.

"I don't expect anything from it," she told the News Monday.

Crancer's brother, Jim, the current Teamsters president, declined to comment through a spokesman.

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