Two weeks, lots of digging - but no Hoffa

Published May 31, 2006|Updated May 31, 2006

The FBI said Tuesday it found no trace of Jimmy Hoffa after digging up a suburban Detroit horse farm in one of the most intensive searches in decades for the former Teamsters boss.

The two-week search involved dozens of FBI agents, along with anthropologists, archaeologists, cadaver-sniffing dogs and a demolition crew that took apart a barn.

Louis Fischetti, supervisory agent with the Detroit FBI, said the tip that led agents to the farm was the best authorities had received since 1976.

The agency will continue the investigation into Hoffa's 1975 disappearance. "There are still prosecutable defendants who are living, and they know who they are," said Judy Chilen, assistant agent in charge of the Detroit FBI.

The farm was once owned by a Hoffa associate and was said to be a mob meeting place before the union boss' disappearance.

Hoffa vanished after he went to meet two organized crime figures. Investigators have long suspected he was killed by the mob to prevent him from reclaiming the presidency of the Teamsters after he got out of prison for corruption. But no trace of him has ever been found, and no one was ever charged.

The farm was just the latest spot to be torn up in search of clues to Hoffa's fate. In 2003, authorities excavated beneath a backyard pool a few hours north of Detroit. The following year, police ripped up floorboards in a Detroit home to test bloodstains. But the blood was not Hoffa's.

Over the years, some have theorized that Hoffa was buried at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands or ground up and thrown into a Florida swamp.

The FBI began the excavation May 17 after a tip from Donovan Wells, an ailing federal inmate who once lived on the farm and was acquainted with its former owner, 92-year-old Hoffa associate Rolland McMaster, according to a government investigator.

The FBI said the search was expected to cost less than $250,000. The government plans to pay for the barn to be rebuilt.