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updated: 9/27/2012 5:29 PM

Latest possible Hoffa burial site draws visitors

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  • Associated PressPeople photograph the driveway Wednesday in Roseville, Mich., where police plan to take soil samples.

      Associated PressPeople photograph the driveway Wednesday in Roseville, Mich., where police plan to take soil samples.

 
Associated Press

ROSEVILLE, Mich. -- Giants Stadium. A Florida swamp. Underneath a backyard pool in Michigan.

There are innumerable theories about where former Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa was buried years ago, but his remains have never turned up.

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The latest tip has taken investigators to a concrete driveway behind a neat brick ranch-style home about four miles north of Detroit, where a man told police he thought he saw Hoffa buried about 35 years ago.

Soil samples will be taken Friday and sent to a forensic anthropologist at Michigan State University to test for human decomposition. Results are not expected before next week.

News of the search has brought attention to the mostly working- and middle-class suburb from both the curious and naysayers. Slowly 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.

Hoffa was last seen July 30, 1975, outside a restaurant in Oakland County, more than 30 miles to the west. The mystery behind his disappearance has sparked numerous theories and rumors: that his 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.

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.

After the latest tip, Roseville police contacted the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which last week used ground-penetrating sonar to detect an anomaly, or shift, in the soil.

Police Chief James Berlin told The Associated Press Thursday that his office is "not claiming it's Jimmy Hoffa" beneath the slab, but that they are "investigating a body that may be at the location."

Though others may be skeptical that Hoffa is there, Smith trusts his sister and the reading she gave him Wednesday evening.

"She said something is buried," Smith said. "She didn't really pin the name Hoffa down, but she had a related word that rhymed with Hoffa, it was Joffa. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. She's pretty accurate with her readings, and that's why I came down here."

Roseville was 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.

"Maybe the most inconspicuous spot might be the place to stash a body or something," said 52-year-old Andrew Kacir, who lives across from the taped off driveway.

Cindi Frank, 57, walked over from her home a block away to snap photos of the driveway. The daughter of a unionized driver and salesman for a Detroit bakery, Frank remembers conversations about Hoffa while he was alive and rumors about his fate.

"It was a family thing. Every time we'd go somewhere we'd say, `Hey, I wonder if Jimmy Hoffa is buried there?"' Frank said. "It's just been one of those unsolved mysteries that's gone on for 30-something years. If he show up in Roseville ..."

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 AP. "The working theories that have developed over the years, this really doesn't fit any of those. If this was the mob and they killed somebody, I just don't see them burying the body basically at the intersection of a residential neighborhood with this guy standing there."

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