By Joseph Lichterman, Reuters
OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Michigan (Reuters) - FBI agents will resume searching an overgrown field in suburban Detroit on Tuesday for former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared nearly 38 years ago and is thought to have been murdered by members of organized crime.
A backhoe was driven onto the property, not far from where Hoffa was last seen alive, on Monday and video recorded from a helicopter by Detroit television station WDIV showed FBI agents digging for the union leader's remains.
By nightfall, there was no indication any remains had been found and the search was halted for the day.
An Oakland County sheriff's deputy said digging would resume at 10 a.m. on Tuesday in Oakland Township about 20 miles north of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, where Hoffa was last seen.
The search for Jimmy Hoffa, who was 62 when he disappeared in 1975, has spawned many theories and leads over the years as to his final resting place that ranged from the Everglades in Florida to a horse farm in Michigan, but he has never been found.
His disappearance has provided fodder for rumors, books, and movies, including 1992's "Hoffa," starring Jack Nicholson.
Law enforcement officials decided to comb the lot after reputed mobster Anthony Zerilli, 85, told the FBI Hoffa was buried there. When Hoffa disappeared, the property was owned by a man Zerilli said was Zerilli's first cousin. Zerilli is the son of former Detroit mob boss Joseph Zerilli.
Zerilli's attorney, David Chasnick, told reporters the FBI spoke with his client over the past seven or eight months and the agency believes "100 percent" Hoffa is buried there. Anthony Zerilli was in prison when the union leader went missing.
"This was a guy who was intimately involved with some of the players who would be well informed as to where the body would be placed," Chasnick said.
According to a copy of Zerilli's 21-page manuscript, provided by Chasnick, Hoffa was dragged out of a car, bound and gagged, hit with a shovel and buried alive under a cement slab in a barn on the property.
"In the movies, people drive around with bodies in a trunk, and put them in meat grinders, and incinerators, bury them in stadiums, put them through wood chippers," Zerilli wrote. "Those things just don't happen in real life, at least not in the real mob life."
Investigators have checked thousands of leads over the years. In September 2012, police took a soil sample from behind a private home in Roseville, Michigan, after receiving a tip Hoffa might be buried there.
Hoffa, the father of current Teamsters President James Hoffa, led the union from 1957 to 1971. In his final years as union president, Jimmy Hoffa was imprisoned for fraud and jury tampering. He was released in late 1971 when President Richard Nixon commuted his sentence.
Law enforcement authorities have long held the theory that Hoffa was ordered killed by organized crime figures to prevent him from regaining control of the Teamsters. He had agreed to be banned from the union until 1980 as part of a deal that won his release from prison.
(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Writing by Nick Carey; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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