For nearly half a century, the disappearance of former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa—reportedly from the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan—has remained one of America’s most popular unsolved mysteries. Conspiracy theories involving mobsters, hit men and all manner of criminal elements abound. And it seems like every year, someone new comes forward with information that will supposedly lead to Hoffa’s final resting place, but inevitably leads nowhere.
The most recent disappointment came last September when someone in Roseville, Michigan claimed to have seen a body buried under his driveway in 1975, not long after Hoffa went missing. Unfortunately, experts drilled, tested soil samples and could find no evidence of human decomposition.
Before that Hoffa’s remains were alleged to be: on a horse farm; under an above-ground pool; in a Cleveland tavern; packed into compressed metal that was later used to build Japanese cars; sealed within a 50-gallon drum at a waste facility; buried in one of the end zones at Giants Stadium; and even melded within the concrete foundation of General Motors’ headquarters.
The truth is that no one knows what happened to Jimmy on that fateful day in 1975, but a recent claim seems to hold more merit than most. And it comes from a source that many law enforcement officials consider to be “highly reputable” and “the right man at the right time”: former Detroit crime boss Anthony Joseph Zerilli.
In 1970, Tony Zerilli took over for his father as head of the Detroit Partnership crime syndicate, part of the notorious Italian Cosa Nostra—you know… the guys that make sure you “sleep with the fishes” if you don’t pay your debts or do their bidding?
Think The Godfather, only for real.
Unfortunately for Tony, he got popped by the feds in 1974 for some shady casino dealings and went to prison. His father Joseph Zerilli came out of retirement to lead “The Partnership” again and in July 1975, the Teamsters boss went missing. It stands to reason that Joseph knew Hoffa’s whereabouts—after all, he was the Head Honcho of the Detroit mob at the time—so it is at least possible that Tony had this information.
And Tony not only claimed to know where Hoffa’s body was buried; he gave the exact location to an NBC reporter this past January.
After leaving prison in 1979, Zerilli allegedly spoke with a mob enforcer friend who told him about the contract on Hoffa—which came from Detroit’s crime bosses (including Joseph Zerilli)—and provided details about his fate. Hoffa was lured to a meeting, presumably at the Machus Red Fox restaurant, captured and taken to a farm roughly 20 miles away that a mob underboss owned. Here he was killed and buried in a shallow grave until his body could be moved later. Unfortunately, that day never came and for all intents and purposes, Hoffa should still be there.
At least that’s the story Tony Zerilli told. And it seems to have been enough since as I’m writing this, investigators are on-the-scene at the farm in Oakland Township just north of Detroit—somewhere near the intersection of Adams and Buell Roads—where Hoffa was supposedly murdered.
I checked it out on Google Earth and it’s definitely a remote area. There is some development nearby, but that would not have been the case in 1975. Back then, I’m sure there was farmland as far as the eye could see.
What I find most interesting about Zerilli’s story is that it was convincing enough to secure a search warrant for private property, owned I’m sure by someone completely innocent of any Hoffa-related crimes. The FBI special agent in charge of the Detroit field office—Bob Foley—told reporters that the information Zerilli provided “reached the threshold of probable cause, which was sufficient to allow us to obtain a search warrant.”
In other words, there could be some truth to Zerilli’s claim. I seriously doubt it, of course—given all the rumors, wolf-crying and disappointment over the years—but I certainly hope it’s true. This mystery has gone unsolved long enough and the time has come to finally put it to rest.
That way we can focus on solving more important mysteries… like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot or why the makers of Vienna Sausages insist on packing their wieners in gelatinous goo. What’s up with that?
There once was a time when people could trust priests. I know it’s tough to remember—especially since it was decades ago, if not longer—but I kid you not. Priests were among the most trusted members of any community in which they lived.
Of course, this was long before the stories of child molestation and sexual assault started to surface. Yes, there were likely priests fondling children and such, but it was much more discreet and, oftentimes, concealed by the church.
Actually, the church has been known to conceal quite a lot, even in the face of all these child sex revelations (for lack of a better word). And this has been going on for so long that eventually, the years pass quickly enough to dim the memories of past crimes and transgressions.
Irene Garza was a beautiful young woman and former Miss South Texas who was loved by many in her small hometown. The day before Easter, she decided to visit Sacred Heart Catholic Church to give confession.
No one ever saw her alive again.
Easter Sunday, Garza’s father finally reported her missing to police and a search ensued, one joined by numerous members of the close-knit community. Four days later, her body was found face down in a canal. An autopsy would later show that Garza had been raped while in a coma, suffocated and killed before being dumped in the murky water.
Near Garza’s body, police found a number of suspicious items. Among them were a candelabra—which authorities determined had come from Sacred Heart Church—as well as a Kodak slide viewer belonging to one of the priests there: Reverend John Feit.
Feit was immediately brought in for questioning and underwent numerous lie detector tests about the murder; he failed them all. Feit did admit to hearing Garza’s confession that fateful night, but claimed that he left the rectory shortly thereafter and last saw her standing outside the front of the church.
The cops weren’t buying it, though. In their official report, one of the interrogating officers wrote that “Feit was responding in a manner that would indicate beyond doubt that he was concealing facts and had guilty knowledge.”
The investigation continued and soon, police learned something very interesting. Mere weeks before Garza’s disappearance, Feit had been arrested for attacking a woman at another church a few miles from McAllen. In that case, he pleaded no contest to a charge of misdemeanor aggravated assault and got only a slap on the wrist: a $500 fine and no prison time.
Pieces of the proverbial puzzle were starting to fall into place. And Garza’s family was certain they had found her killer.
Unfortunately, nothing would ever come of Garza’s case because—and bear in mind this is all hearsay—the church and the district attorney conspired to sweep this terrible crime under the rug, in a manner of speaking. Feit was insulated from prosecution and immediately transferred to Our Lady of Assumption monastery in Ava, Missouri.
He left the priesthood near the end of the decade and eventually settled in Arizona, where he currently resides. For years, the Garza case grew cold, despite the continued efforts of several family members to keep her on law enforcement’s radar.
A break finally came in 2002 when Texas Ranger Lt. Rudy Jaramillo and his cold case unit started investigating the Garza murder. After reviewing the case evidence, Jaramillo agreed that it pointed to Feit as the killer. The problem was that he had to prove it by finding something more concrete and substantial.
And that something came in the form of two surprise witnesses: Joseph O’Brien, a priest who once worked with Feit at Sacred Heart, and Dale Tacheny, a monk at the Missouri monastery where Feit was sent in 1963.
Tacheny also served as Feit’s spiritual advisor.
According to both men, Feit confessed to killing Garza and basically knew that he got away with murder. He also seemed to understand how the church protected him from prosecution, sparing him from a life behind bars and granting him freedom even he knew he didn’t deserve.
O’Brien was working at Sacred Heart when Garza disappeared and was found murdered, and he suspected Feit was trouble. “We knew he was dangerous, so we shipped him off to a monastery,” the priest told CNN recently. O’Brien also mentioned how Feit confessed to him directly about the murder. Unfortunately, O’Brien lied to police, told them he knew nothing and carried this terrible truth for decades before finally coming forward.
Tacheny first met Feit when he arrived at Our Lady of Assumption in Missouri and began to counsel him spiritually. Soon Feit confessed to Garza’s murder, but unlike his confession to O’Brien, this one was much more detailed.
Feit told Tacheny that he heard Garza’s confession that April night in 1960 and invited her to join him in the rectory. She did and that’s where he sexually assaulted her, fondled her breasts, tied her up, gagged her and put something over her head. Feit then smuggled her out of the church and took her home, where he kept her overnight.
On Easter morning, Feit wrapped Garza in plastic—still bound and gagged—and put her in the bathtub. She complained about not being able to breathe, but he ignored her pleas and instead went to church to hear more confessions. By the time he returned, however, Garza was dead. He quickly tossed her body into his car, drove to a nearby canal and dumped her there.
She would be found four days later.
Given these new witnesses and their shocking accounts of Feit’s guilt, Jaramillo was convinced he could get a warrant for the former priest’s arrest. He approached the county district attorney, Rene Guerra, and presented his evidence. Unfortunately, the D.A. was not convinced.
Guerra claimed that neither O’Brien nor Tacheny were credible and demanded more solid evidence that would result in what he called a “slam-dunk conviction.” In his opinion—and despite numerous others having different views—O’Brien was a senile old man who lied to police and Tacheny did little more than present evidence fed to him by Jaramillo.
It didn’t matter that McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez found O’Brien “very credible” or that Tacheny told his story to San Antonio Police detective George Saidler months before Jaramillo ever heard of him. Guerra would not issue a warrant for Feit’s arrest.
In 2004, a grand jury finally did hear Garza’s case again, only Feit was never called to testify. Neither was O’Brien or Tacheny, even though transcripts of their testimony were supposedly shared with jurors. Sadly, O’Brien died a year later and the grand jury decided not to indict Feit.
There would be no justice for Irene Garza, but her family has not given up hope. They still believe that someday Feit will answer for his crime. And since he was once a “man of God,” I hope he understands that while a human court may not get him, a certain archangel named Satan might.
We all pay the piper eventually. It’s just that for John Feit—who is elderly and basically has one foot in the grave already—the price will be especially high.
Hoffa disappeared more than 35 years ago under very mysterious circumstances, but his body was never found. And conspiracy theories about his ultimate demise abound. Was Hoffa murdered by mobsters and encased in the cement foundation of Giants Stadium? Was he dumped in a swamp? Dissolved in acid?
No one really knows. And none of these “leads” have ever panned out.
Is it possible this could change given this new discovery? Most law enforcement officials think not, but there is an investigation underway.
Last week, authorities used ground-penetrating radar on the site and discovered an anomaly in the soil below. This indicated that yes, the ground had been disturbed at some point. Soil samples are now being collected to determine if a decomposed body is buried there.
“We are not claiming it’s Jimmy Hoffa because the timeline doesn’t add up,” explained Roseville Police Chief James Berlin. “We’re investigating a body that may be at the location.”
Whether or not this is really Jimmy Hoffa’s burial place remains to be seen, but additional information should be available soon.
Jimmy Hoffa was last seen leaving a restaurant outside Detroit in July 1975 and getting into a car with a Teamsters boss and a mafia captain. The dying man who thinks Hoffa’s body is buried under that driveway said that he saw several men burying a large black bag in that location shortly after Hoffa’s disappearance.
Although I hope this brings an end to the mystery surrounding Hoffa’s disappearance, I’m fairly certain he will never be found. It’s been 35 years and endless leads have been investigated, but still nothing has ever been found. Whoever disposed of his body did a thorough job and I seriously doubt they buried him under a driveway in suburbia.
Of course, I’ll still be waiting for the results of the investigation with great anticipation. And if it really is Hoffa, we can finally put his case to rest and focus on solving another mystery.
Watch out, Bigfoot, because you might be next!