Authorities drilled through concrete and removed wet soil samples in a modest Detroit-area neighborhood Friday in the latest effort to find the remains of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975.
There was no immediate sign of human remains, but test results could be ready by Monday, Roseville Police Chief James Berlin said.
“We’re not sure if anything is down there. That’s what this is all about,” Berlin said.
They drilled the concrete floor of a shed attached to a driveway where a recent radar test revealed a shift in the soil. The latest investigation was launched after a man told police that he saw a body being buried under the driveway 35 years ago and “thinks it may have been Jimmy.”
Could this search be the one that solves the mystery? Don’t get excited: Authorities have already said they don’t think the timeline adds up and that it’s unlikely Hoffa’s body is there. He was last seen July 30, 1975, outside a restaurant in Oakland County, more than 30 miles to the west.
The homeowner, Patricia Szpunar, 72, has lived there since 1988. She said her son uses the 12-by-12 shed to store two workbenches and his motorcycle.
Police detectives appeared two weeks ago and said they may need to search her yard for a dead body.
“I laughed at them,” Szpunar said Friday as the work began. “I looked at them and said, ‘What? Do you think Jimmy Hoffa is buried in my backyard?’ ... They just looked at me, and asked why I said Jimmy Hoffa.”
Recently retired Detroit FBI chief Andrew Arena is among the doubters.
“You’ve got to check it out, but this doesn’t sound right,” he told The Associated Press. “The working theories that have developed over the years, this really doesn’t fit any of those.”
Berlin said he’s not claiming Hoffa is under the slab, but they are “investigating a body that may be at the location.” He said the home may have been owned in the 1970s by a gambler with ties to organized crime.
Feisty and iron-willed in contract talks, Hoffa was an acquaintance of mobsters and adversary to federal officials. He spent time in prison for jury tampering. The day he disappeared, Hoffa was supposed to meet with a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit mafia captain.
He was declared legally dead in 1982. Previous tips led police to excavate soil in 2006 at a horse farm more than 100 miles north of Detroit, rip up floorboards at a Detroit home in 2004 and search beneath a backyard pool north of the city in 2003.
There were even rumors that Hoffa’s remains were ground up and tossed into a Florida swamp, entombed beneath Giants Stadium in New Jersey or obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant.
Roseville is one of several inner-ring communities that grew quickly as unionized auto factory workers left the city in search of nicer homes and bigger yards.
News of the latest search has brought attention to the mostly working- and middle-class suburb from the curious and naysayers. Slow-moving vehicles have clogged the residential street as camera-wielding neighbors snapped photos for keepsakes.
“I believe it’s him. My sister said it is, and she’s a psychic,” said Mike Smith after ambling up to the home Thursday and shying a bit from the yellow police tape stretched across the driveway.
One local theory that has endured is that Hoffa is beneath the foundation of a downtown Detroit hockey stadium, said 57-year-old Cindi Frank. The daughter of a unionized driver and salesman for a Detroit bakery, Frank remembers conversations about the mobster.
“It was a family thing. Every time we’d go somewhere we’d say, ‘Hey, I wonder if Jimmy Hoffa is buried there?’ “ she said.
Some think the least likely spot for him to turn up might just be the place he does.
“Maybe the most inconspicuous spot might be the place to stash a body or something,” said 52-year-old Andrew Kacir, who lives across the street.