The former Teamsters boss, who disappeared in 1975, would be 100 years old if he were alive today.
Jimmy Hoffa, why are we still looking for you?
Nearly 40 years after he disappeared, federal agents were at it again this week, digging up a field in Oakland Township, Mich., on an aging mobster's tip that the body of the former Teamsters boss might be buried there. Authorities say they owe it to Hoffa's family and others to try to bring closure to one of America's longest-standing and intriguing mysteries.
"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," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Monday. "It's long overdue. It’s been one of those open wounds for a long time."
"The disappearance is — as the agency has said on other occasions -—still an 'open case,'" Frankie Bailey, associate professor at the University at Albany's School of Criminal Justice, told MSN News. "It isn't obliged to follow up every alleged lead, but if the agency has information from a credible source, it may well feel obliged to try to finally close the case. And one would think that after all these years, the FBI would like to solve this mystery. It would be a triumph to finally find Jimmy Hoffa."
Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975, theorized by many to have been snuffed out by organized crime figures intent on stopping him from taking back control of the Teamsters, the most powerful labor union at the time. But no one has ever been arrested in the case, and no body has ever been found.
The FBI's — and America's — fixation with the case, observers say, is because Hoffa's persona has become intertwined with American culture.
"We as human beings have an affinity toward these big unsolved mysteries. In some ways the appeal is because it is a mystery. If it actually gets solved, that's going to be a disappointment," said Robert Thompson, a pop culture expert and professor at Syracuse University.
"The best example of this was Deep Throat, the great American mystery of Watergate. When Deep Throat finally gets identified, it's kind of like, OK, that’s the end of that story."
FBI searching for Jimmy Hoffa ... Again
"Unsolved cases, mysteries, offer the public the opportunity to speculate, to explore various theories, and play armchair detective. This case is particularly intriguing because of Jimmy Hoffa himself. For a significant portion of the mid-20th century, he was an incredibly powerful figure in organized labor, both a folk hero and someone who was pursued by law enforcement for his involvement with organized crime," Bailey said. "He disappeared, but he left behind a legend of power and defiance."
HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE
Hoffa was officially declared dead in 1982. In the decades since, a multitude of theories and tips have emerged as to his whereabouts.
In recent years agents have searched a horse farm northwest of Detroit, pulled up floorboards in a Detroit house and scoured a backyard pool two hours north of the city. In September, police took soil samples from a suburban Michigan backyard. Hoffa was in neither of those places.
Other mystery aficionados theorize he lies under the old Giants Stadium in New Jersey, or under General Motors' headquarters in Detroit, or was fed to alligators at a Florida swamp.
The FBI's latest dig came after a tip from Anthony J. Zerilli, an 85-year-old reputed Detroit Mafia captain who says he learned from other mob associates that Hoffa was hit with a shovel and buried alive at the Oakland Township property after he was kidnapped from the parking lot of a Bloomfield Township, Mich., restaurant.
Zerilli recently published a manuscript, being sold online at HoffaFound.com, that he claims reveals "the truth of Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance."
Keith Corbett, a former federal prosecutor who helped break the Detroit mob, said the FBI was obligated to act on Zerilli's claims because he was "in a position to know." Corbett also defended authorities for repeatedly expending man-hours and money on what to date has been a ghost hunt.
"Anytime you look for somebody and don't find the body it is embarrassing," Corbett told The Associated Press. "The thing the public isn't aware of, but police know, is there are a lot of dead ends in an investigation."
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