By Tammy Stables Battaglia and Ann Zaniewski
Detroit Free Press
---- — OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The day started out with promising news: A state police cadaver dog picked up a scent Tuesday morning as FBI agents combed a grassy field in Oakland Township in search of Jimmy Hoffa’s body.
Later, a truck carrying a bulldozer pulled up to the scene, generating a buzz among a group of reporters and onlookers.
But that excitement eventually fizzled, with Day 2 of an exhaustive search ending without any conclusive evidence that the former Teamsters union president is buried there.
Searchers did find animals remains at the site, according to a source who is familiar with the search. Investigators also unearthed two concrete slabs, about six feet by 12 feet each, the source said.
The search is to resume Wednesday at 8 a.m. EDT, a FBI spokesman said.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Tuesday’s search was in the same areas of a grassy field where an associate of Hoffa’s told FBI investigators the missing Teamster was buried alive in 1975.
“It’s still an ongoing process back there,” Bouchard said. “One of the areas have been completed in terms of its being checked thoroughly. They’re checking another area, which is still consistent with the information.”
The search attracted a horde of reporters and curious onlookers, including a man wearing a horse head mask and carrying a shovel.
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 Buell Road near the dig site.
“By being ridiculous, I hope to point out how ridiculous this whole thing is,” he said, his mask 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?”
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.
The 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. Zerilli claims Hoffa was struck with a shovel and then buried alive on the property, with a slab of concrete placed over the body.
“It’s probably one of the most relevant and credible in terms of being in the know with information that’s come forth,” Bouchard said. “Whether or not it bears fruit remains to be seen.”
Zerilli’s lawyer, attorney David Chasnick, denied that Zerilli’s claims are all a ploy to make money.
Zerilli is selling a manuscript of what he says is the true story of why and how Hoffa disappeared at Hoffafound.com for $4.99 per download or $7.99 per mailed copy. Zerilli is also selling pictures of himself.
for $9.99 — or $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 quite a while. “The FBI wouldn’t be doing all this stuff if they thought it was just a ploy.”
Zerilli apparently was at the dig site on Monday, according to Chasnick, who claims Zerilli was scared off by a crowd of local and national media.
Zerilli spoke to a New York television station on Monday and Chasnick was organizing an interview with CNN Tuesday. Contending that the former mob associate was nervous in front of cameras, he said Zerilli may talk to other news outlets as the search continues.