On the afternoon of July 30, 1975, Hoffa was last seen waiting in front of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Mich. It is uncertain whether anybody saw him leave.
Investigators believe he joined other men inside a maroon Mercury. The car pulled off, and the 62-year-old Hoffa was never seen again.
At the time of his disappearance, Hoffa was attempting to overturn the conditions of his prison release and once again lead the Teamsters. There was speculation in the media that in 1976 he would be allowed to challenge his hand-picked successor, Frank Fitzsimmons, to head the union.
According to previously secret FBI case files excerpted in 1997 by the Detroit Sunday Journal, members of the mafia — referred to as “La Cosa Nostra” in the files — saw Hoffa as a threat.
“Informed sources of the Detroit Division [of the FBI] are generally of the opinion that Hoffa was abducted and ‘hit’ with the knowledge, consent and possible participation of the Detroit LCN [La Cosa Nostra] family,” read an Oct. 31, 1975 FBI report, according to an Internet archive of the Sunday Journal’s two-part series on the FBI files.
“All sources believe that Hoffa’s disappearance is directly connected with his attempts to regain power within the Teamsters Union, which would possibly have an effect on the LCN’s control and manipulation of Teamster Pension Funds,” the newspaper’s excerpt said.
It continued: “The sources indicate further that even though Hoffa cooperated with them on Teamster loans, Fitzsimmons is also cooperating and, as such, the LCN would want to maintain conditions as they are. It has been rumored among sources that Hoffa, while attempting to gain control of the Teamsters, may have provided information to the Government in exchange for a favorable decision concerning the lifting of his Union restrictions.”
The FBI investigated the authenticity of the 1975 documents cited in the Sunday Journal’s report.
“It appears that the [newspaper’s] copies were legitimate,” Glaspie said. “Beyond that we really don’t have any comment.”
Since Hoffa’s disappearance, several other theories and countless rumors have arisen on what became of him. The FBI apparently investigated many of them.
The Sunday Journal’s files show the FBI even looked into claims implying Hoffa remained alive in the weeks after his disappearance. For instance, one man, a teamster, claimed someone who appeared to be Hoffa disguised in fake glasses had checked into his wife’s hotel after 1 a.m. on Aug. 2 under the name “Jewell.”
But the FBI apparently deemed other rumors less likely.
Such seems to be the case with the story told by Donald Frankos, a former prison inmate. In 1989, he told Playboy magazine that he was involved in a plot to kill Hoffa, and that Hoffa’s remains were mixed with concrete used to build Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“Clearly, nobody who has ever been involved in the case ever thought it was true,” Samerjan says. “There has never been any indication to us from any legitimate [law-enforcement] source to go digging on the 750 or so acres here.”
Last November, Boating magazine, acting on information from a tipster, failed to discover Hoffa’s body in the Au Sable River, 175 miles from Detroit. But the magazine has posted a $10,000 reward to anyone who points investigators to Hoffa’s remains in the river by the end of this year.
It is not a joke, says Nancy Nisselbaum, the magazine’s editor.
“We seriously think that’s where he is,” Nisselbaum says. “This could be the one.”
But as time goes by, like other observers, she is getting less and less optimistic about finding Hoffa.