OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. - The FBI said Wednesday that investigators have found no remains of former Teamster Boss Jimmy Hoffa at a farm field in suburban Detroit and have ended their search at the site.
The announcement was made by Robert Foley, head of the FBI in Detroit, just a few hours after a backhoe and bulldozer and forensic anthropologists resumed digging for a third day.
"We did not uncover any evidence relevant to the investigation on James Hoffa," Foley said.
"I am very confident of our result here after two-days-plus of diligent effort," he said. "As of this point, we'll be closing down the excavation operation."
"Of course we're disappointed," Foley said. "Certainly what we do in the FBI with our law enforcement partners is endeavor to reach the conclusion of a criminal investigation. And at this point with respect to the fact that we had no evidence uncovered, we're not at that conclusion so, of course, we're disappointed."
He said the Hoffa case remains opens even though the latest search proved fruitless.
Some skeptical officials, however had already questioned whether a Michigan State Police K-9's alert at site Tuesday was for human remains - or animal bones.
This Oakland Township property came under scrutiny in January after Tony Zerilli, 85, the son of reputed former Detroit mob boss Joseph Zerilli, told investigators that Hoffa was buried there. Tony Zerilli said Hoffa was struck with a shovel and buried alive here with a slab of concrete placed over the body.
The search has attracted a horde of reporters and curious onlookers, including a man wearing a horse head mask and carrying a shovel Tuesday afternoon.
The man, who said he's 40 and from Lake Orion, Mich., but refused to give his real name, gave a thumbs-up to law enforcement officers blocking the road near the dig site.
"By being ridiculous, I hope to point out how ridiculous this whole thing is," he said. His mask is a nod to a famous scene from the movie The Godfather.
He went on to say: "Hoffa disappeared in '75, so 38 years ago. He's obviously dead. How he's dead doesn't really matter. Who killed him doesn't really matter, 'cause they're probably dead, too. So really, what's the point in what's going on here today?"
A 1974 photograph of Jimmy Hoffa.(Photo: AP)
The 62-year-old Hoffa was kidnapped on the afternoon of July 30, 1975, from the parking lot of what was then the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Mich.
"It's probably one of the most relevant and credible in terms of being in the know with information that's come forth," Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard had said earlier of the site. "Whether or not it bears fruit remains to be seen."
Zerilli's lawyer, Novi, Mich.-based lawyer David Chasnick, denied that Zerilli's claims are a ploy to make money.
Zerilli is selling a manuscript of what he says is the true story of why and how Hoffa disappeared. It is available for $4.99 per download or $7.99 per mailed copy. Zerilli also is selling pictures of himself for $9.99, $22.99 with an autograph and another $12 for a personal message.
"The only interest I think that Mr. Zerilli really cares about is that the body be found and these people be put at ease that the body and remains have finally been found," Chasnick said, contending that the autographed pictures have been available for a while. "The FBI wouldn't be doing all this stuff if they thought it was just a ploy."
Two forensic anthropologists are on site to guide searchers and respond if bones or other signs of human remains are found, Bouchard said.
Core samples of the concrete slabs, described as typical foundation concrete, and the dirt underneath did not yield any clues to Hoffa's disappearance, according to a source.
While not confirming specifics about the concrete, Bouchard said it was hard to determine how it originated on the site, whether as a barn floor or poured for something else.
Tammy Stables Battaglia and Ann Zaniewski, Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press/Gannett