Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa

Prologue

The Red Fox Restaurant, Bloomfield Township, Michigan (CORBIS)
The Red Fox Restaurant,
Bloomfield Township, Michigan
(CORBIS)

On July 30, 1975, former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa stood outside the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, impatiently scanning the parking lot. The man who had made the Teamsters the most formidable labor union in the country was already angry. It was quarter after two in the afternoon, and the men he was supposed to be meeting for lunch hadn't arrived yet. Hoffa was a stickler for punctuality, and it was his understanding that they were to meet at 2:00.

Teamster President James R. Hoffa (AP)
Teamster President
James R. Hoffa (AP)

Wearing a dark blue short-sleeve shirt, blue pants, white socks, and black Gucci loafers, Hoffa walked to a nearby pay phone outside a hardware store and called his wife to tell her that he'd apparently been stood up. Josephine Hoffa had felt that her husband seemed uncharacteristically nervous when he had left the house an hour earlier. Before going to the restaurant, Hoffa had stopped at the offices of a limousine service in Pontiac that was owned by a good friend. An employee there also noticed that Hoffa seemed nervous.

Anthony 'Tony Jack' Giacalone (CORBIS)
Anthony 'Tony Jack'
Giacalone (CORBIS)

Jimmy Hoffa was supposed to be meeting Detroit mobster Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone and New Jersey labor leader Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano, who also happened to be a made member of the Genovese crime family. The reason for this meeting, Hoffa believed, was to discuss his intention to run for the presidency of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and regain the powerful position he had lost after his 1964 convictions for jury tampering, conspiracy, and mail and wire fraud. But the Mafia, who had worked hand in hand with Hoffa in the past, wasn't so sure they wanted him back in power. President Richard Nixon had granted Hoffa clemency in 1971, just before Christmas, but things had changed significantly in the nearly five years Hoffa had spent behind bars. The mob found Hoffa's handpicked successor, Frank Fitzsimmons, more pliable than Hoffa, and Fitzsimmons was well liked by President Nixon. The gangsters liked things the way they were. They wanted Hoffa to stay retired.

Not long after Hoffa had called home on the pay phone outside the hardware store, a maroon 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham pulled out of the restaurant parking lot and nearly hit a truck. The truck driver, who was making deliveries in the area, pulled up next to the car and immediately recognized Jimmy Hoffa sitting in the backseat behind the car's driver. The truck driver also noticed a long object covered with a gray blanket on the seat between Hoffa and another passenger. The truck driver thought it was a shotgun or a rifle. He didn't get a good look at anyone else in the car.

The next day Hoffa's green 1974 Pontiac Grand Ville was found unlocked in the restaurant parking lot. Police opened the trunk but found nothing unusual. Using the truck driver's description of the car Hoffa was last seen in, investigators were able to trace the maroon Mercury to its owner, Joe Giacalone, the son of mobster Anthony Giacalone. Joe Giacalone claimed that he had lent the car to a friend that day, a teamster named Charles "Chuckie" O'Brien, who was very close to the Hoffa family and had actually lived with the Hoffas at one time. The car was located, and O'Brien's fingerprints were found on a 7UP bottle and a piece of paper recovered from the car. Investigators felt that Jimmy Hoffa would have felt comfortable enough with O'Brien, whom he considered a foster son, to get into the Mercury.

FBI agents checked on the whereabouts of the two men Hoffa was supposed to be meeting that day. "Tony Jack" Giacalone swore he was at the gym where he worked out every day, and witnesses placed him at the Southfield Athletic Club at the time of Hoffa's disappearance. "Tony Pro" Provenzano was in New Jersey playing cards with friends. Both Tonys said they knew nothing about a scheduled meeting with Hoffa.

Charles 'Chuckie' O'Brien
Charles 'Chuckie'
O'Brien

Chuckie O'Brien claimed that he hadn't seen Hoffa on July 30 and gave a detailed account of his whereabouts. He told investigators that he had delivered a 40-pound frozen salmon to the home of a Teamster International vice president and helped the man's wife cut the fish into steaks. During the time that Jimmy Hoffa had been waiting at the restaurant, O'Brien said he was at the Southfield Athletic Club with Anthony Giacalone. O'Brien claimed he then took the Mercury to a car wash because fish blood had leaked onto the backseat. No one at the athletic club or the car wash could corroborate his story.

Specially trained German shepherds were flown in from Philadelphia eight days after Hoffa's disappearance. The dogs were given a pair of the labor leader's Bermuda shorts and a pair of his moccasins. They picked up Hoffa's scent in the backseat and trunk of Joe Giacalone's maroon Mercury. Twenty-six years later in March of 2001, a DNA match was made between a hair found in the back of the car and a hair taken from Hoffa's hairbrush.

Over a quarter of a century has passed since the mysterious disappearance of James Riddle Hoffa, and the case remains unsolved. But this mystery is not a who-done-it. The likely suspects are all known, and their motives are well documented. The question is: Where? What exactly did they do to Jimmy Hoffa, and where did they dispose of his body?

 

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