Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa disappeared in 1975, believed murdered by the mob, but no one has been able to find his body. So where is it? Investigative reporter George Knapp interviews the man who says he knows the answer. Originally aired on Nov. 15, 2006, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas. Last of 3 Parts.
MYSTERY WIRE — People have been digging around for Jimmy Hoffa’s body for a long time. There’s a good reason they haven’t found it.
Hoffa wasn’t controlled by gangsters, but he certainly was beholden to the mob, which had helped him land the Teamsters presidency in the first place. Hoffa’s successor Frank Fitzsimmons was under Mafia control, according to lawmen, and did what he was told, especially regarding loans to Las Vegas casinos.
Hoffa was a threat to that arrangement.
In July 1975, Hoffa vanished forever.
“Everyone was sure organized crime did it and everyone was sure he was dead,” says former organized crime prosecutor Stan Hunterton. “He hadn’t just disappeared or gone to a monastery.”
Hunterton and everyone else in the Detroit strike force office were galvanized by Hoffa’s vanishing act. Within a few months, the FBI had compiled the Hoffex memo, a list of 9 solid suspects. They knew Hoffa had gone to this restaurant. They knew he was picked up in a car, supposedly to attend a meeting with Mafia figures Tony Giacalone and Tony Provenzano.
But that’s where the trail grew cold. In the ensuing decades, there have been many unsuccessful searches for Hoffa’s remains, including a massive dig at a Michigan farm this summer. All manner of rumors have surfaced about the body being under Giants Stadium. Or in a swamp, or chopped into dog food. No one knew for sure, except the killers.
Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran was a Teamsters official, Hoffa confidante, and Mafia hitman. Near the end of Sheeran’s life, as he was dying of cancer, he confessed to his longtime lawyer, Charles Brandt, that he was the one who gunned down Hoffa at a house in Detroit.
Brandt: How many shots were fired at Jimmy?
Brandt: You were the shooter?
Sheeran: That’s right.
Brandt wrote “I Heard You Paint Houses,” a book based on Sheeran’s confession. Forensic evidence taken from the car and the house support Sheeran’s version, which has convinced Hunterton and others that Sheeran did it.
The FBI always had him listed as a prime suspect and tried to get him to talk.
“They went after him for anything,” Brandt said. “If he squeezed the Charmin in the supermarket, they would have arrested him. They hounded him and they got him. Sent him to prison for labor racketeering for 32 years.”
But the only person Sheeran talked to was Brandt, in a deathbed confession. So what happened to Hoffa’s body?
Sheeran: Took the body to an incinerator.
Brandt: OK, and that was a funeral parlor?
Sheeran: A funeral parlor, yeah. Jimmy was put into the incinerator.
Sheeran: Yeah. Yeah.
According to Sheeran, two other men were waiting inside the house for Hoffa. They were “cleaners,” Sheeran said, assigned to handle the scene and the body.
Brandt: What happens to the blood in the house?
Sheeran: Clean up guys to clean up. They had to make sure everything’s OK, everything’s wiped down and all.
Sheeran identified the cleaners as brothers, Tom and Steve Andretta. Those same names are listed among the FBI’s original suspects. Hoffa’s body was bagged and whisked to a mortuary that was less than two minutes’ drive from the house, where it was immediately cremated.
“How incredibly easy it would have been in 1975 to dispose of a body in one of those ovens,” Brandt said. “The box is never opened. It’s sealed. An hour after it’s gone, all trace of Hoffa is gone. His jewelry is dust.”
Sheeran said into the camera, “If they would have buried him in the ground, they would have found him. Nothing left but dust.”
As for the alleged cleaners, both served prison time following Hoffa’s death.
Is this the final word on the Hoffa mystery? Probably not. But those who know the case well say all the pieces fit.
“It may not have happened exactly that way, but I think that’s the gist of it,” Hunterton said.
While no one was ever convicted for the Hoffa murder, the Justice Department prosecuted more than 30 mob figures for other crimes uncovered during the Hoffa investigation. Basically, everyone linked to the case did time for one crime or another, including Sheeran and Las Vegan Tommy Andretta.