(WXYZ) - The search started early Monday morning– crime scene tape marking the spot where FBI agents were soon using shovels to dig into the earth.
They were looking for the remains of legendary former Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa – who vanished nearly 38 years ago.
By mid-day, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Foley was only able to confirm his agents were executing a search warrant related to the disappearance of Hoffa.
“Because this investigation is an open investigation and because the search warrant is sealed, I will not be able to provide any additional details regarding our activity here this morning. However if information does become available, to the extent that we can share it, we certainly will,” said Foley.
The property on Buell Rd near Adams in Oakland Township once belonged to suspected mob boss Jack Tocco.
Hoffa was last known to be meeting with mafia members at a restaurant in Bloomfield Township.
After years of dead ends, the feds finally have a new lead. Anthony Joseph Zerilli says Hoffa was bound and gagged, hit over the head with a shovel, and then buried alive on the Tocco land.
“No doubt about it. There used to be a barn in the field. Buried under the barn under a cement slab. And that’s where our understanding is where the body should be,” said attorney David Chasnick, who spoke on behalf of Zerilli Monday.
Zerilli was in prison at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance but Federal agents say he was once second in command of the Detroit mob.
“This is a man that would be in the know. This is not some random guy who said ‘oh, I think he’s buried there. This was a person intimately involved with some of the players who would be well informed as to where the body would be placed,” said Chasnick.
Zerilli alleges in his manuscript that Hoffa’s killers intended to move his body later to Rogers City, MI, but never had the chance due to the media frenzy that surrounded his disappearance.
Chasnick says Zerilli has met with the FBI but he has not taken a polygraph.
Neighbors and law enforcement alike are hoping Hoffa’s family will finally learn the truth.
“It’s my fondest hope to give closure not just to the Hoffa family but also to the community. To stop tearing that scab off with every new lead, and bring some conclusion -- it’s long overdue,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.
Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies and officials from the Bloomfield Township Police Department were also onsite at the dig.
“I just wish it would be put to rest for the family,” said Sharon McKay, who lives near the site where the agents are searching.
Bill Laatz, who owns property near Buell Road, provided aerial photographs to 7 Action News. The photos were taken in 1990, and cleary show a barn near an old farmhouse on the property that’s now being searched. While neighbors say Tocco owned the 45 acres along Buell Road for years – he never lived there.
“Do you remember the barn that used to be on the property?” asked 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.
“Oh yes, I used to have my pigs in there,” said Bob Galler.
Galler says he used to work on the farm years before Tocco purchased the land in 1972.
“The only place that was dirt floor in that barn was where he kept the work horses – he farmed the horses… But the rest was all cement.. They raised all sorts of animals. So they’ll probably find all sorts of bones – I remember the goats. Llamas. Cows Chickens Pig sheep,” said Galler and his wife Marian.
They hope this Hoffa search finally brings peace for his family.
“Let’s hope it’s worthwhile this time. They’ve had so many false leads let’s hope this one is a good lead,” said Galler.
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