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Published: Sunday, 9/16/2001 - Updated: 1 year ago

Hoffa case alive again?

Twenty-six years after the disappearance and presumed death of former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, science and technology have dramatically revived the long-dormant case. A hair found in the car of Hoffa family friend Charles O'Brien has, through DNA techniques, been matched with that of the labor leader, according to the Detroit News.

Whether the same can be said of the specks of blood and skin also found in the car remains to be seen. In any event, this match has been much too long in coming. DNA analysis has been freeing wrongly convicted prisoners for years; the FBI has been doing it for more than a decade.

Still, the results fly in the face of Mr. O'Brien's insistence that Mr. Hoffa, on the day of his disappearance, was never in the car the younger man had borrowed from Joe Giacalone, son of Detroit-area mobster Anthony Giacalone. Trained dogs that had sniffed Mr. Hoffa's clothes at his home indicated the union leader's scent was in the back seat of the car. The hair evidence appears to confirm that, though there are many ways a lost hair could end up there.

The lumbering pace of this federal investigation - the FBI now hopes to decide whether to prosecute anyone by December 2003 - has been frustrating to Hoffa's children, current Teamster President James P. Hoffa and Barbara Ann Crancer, now a federal judge in St. Louis. She has been trying to see investigative records for several years, only to have her requests stymied by FBI insistence that their investigation into Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance is ongoing.

The belief is that the senior Hoffa was the victim of a mob hit ordered or set up by late New Jersey mob leader Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano, with the help of the senior Giacalone, who is also dead now. Why? Because the elder Hoffa wanted to stage a comeback and, in the process, rout organized crime from Teamsters' affairs.

While federal investigators failed to indict Jimmy Hoffa's killers, the news reports note, they waged a successful war on the people they suspected, with Provenzano convicted of murder and extortion in another case, and Giacalone convicted of income tax evasion and subsequently charged with racketeering. The Teamsters Union fell under federal supervision until a host of union bosses with ties to organized crime were ejected, convicted, or both.

Mr. O'Brien's involvement in the Hoffa disappearance has been suspected by Hoffa's family, friends, and police from the beginning. Whether this fresh evidence, combined with unknown material collected by officials, will be enough to sustain an indictment, let alone a conviction, only time will tell.



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