The Many Theories of Jimmy Hoffa’s Disappearance

The Many Theories of Jimmy Hoffa’s Disappearance

Patrick Lynch - January 22, 2017

The disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa ranks as one of the most enduring and intriguing mysteries in recent American history. He vanished on July 30, 1975, and while he was murdered that day, there are still various theories as to who killed him and where the body is buried.

Rise to Power

Hoffa was born in Indiana in 1913, but his family moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1924. He left school at the age of 14 and performed manual labor until he started union organizational work at grassroots level. Hoffa impressed the Teamsters of Detroit enough for the group to offer him a leadership position at its Local 299 branch.

While the Teamsters were a big organization with 75,000 members in 1933, it was split into small local trucker groups. Over the course of 20 years, Hoffa helped organize it into a national body with over one million members by 1951. He became president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 1958; by now, it was one of the country’s most powerful unions.

His position and activities made him a target for investigation and Hoffa was known for his ties to organized crime. He became a target for Robert Kennedy who created a ‘Get Hoffa’ squad. Hoffa received an eight-year prison sentence in 1964 for attempting to bribe a grand juror. He also received a five-year sentence (to run concurrently with his other term) in 1964 for misappropriating $1.7 million in union pension funds.

After three years of appeals, Hoffa went to prison in 1967 but was pardoned by President Nixon in 1971 with the condition that he remained out of union politics until 1980.

The Many Theories of Jimmy Hoffa’s Disappearance
Frank Fitzsimmons. Fine Art America


Hoffa didn’t take the situation seriously and made moves to regain control of the Teamsters from his former right-hand man Frank Fitzsimmons. The mobsters did not approve as they knew Fitzsimmons was a more acceptable face of the union and easier to manipulate. The mob warned Hoffa several times about his conduct, but he refused to listen. His stubbornness and lust for power led to his death.

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa went to the Red Fox Restaurant just outside of Detroit to meet two known Mafia figures; Anthony Provenzano and Anthony Giacalone. The meeting was set for 2 pm, but neither man showed up. Hoffa ran his wife at 2.30pm and complained about the tardiness of the two men. He said he would wait for a few more minutes before leaving. Hoffa was seen leaving at 2.45pm in the backseat of a maroon car. A truck driver claims the car almost hit him on the way out and said he saw a man in the backseat with Hoffa holding an object covered with a blanket.

Hoffa’s car was found at the restaurant and investigations into his disappearance revealed nothing. He was declared legally dead in 1982. Provenzano was a prime suspect at the outset, but he had a cast iron alibi. Of course, he could have just ordered the hit. Given the Mafia’s preference for discretion, it seems odd that Provenzano would schedule a meeting with Hoffa and subsequently kill him. With no concrete evidence, it was inevitable that a variety of theories would emerge.

The Many Theories of Jimmy Hoffa’s Disappearance
Red Fox Restaurant. The Daily Beast

Theories on Hoffa’s Murder

Frank Sheeran

FOX News anchor Eric Shawn believes Hoffa’s long time friend Frank Sheeran pulled the trigger. The ex-mobster wrote about the death in his book ‘I Hear You Paint Houses.’ Sheeran said he picked up Hoffa along with two other men and brought him to an empty house. He didn’t want to kill his friend but had no choice; refusal to follow mob orders was a death sentence. Sheeran lingered behind Hoffa before shooting him twice in the back of the head.

According to the writer of the book, Charlie Brandt, Sheeran gave directions to the property. During a 2004 investigation, a forensic team went to the home and discovered traces of blood in several areas. In fact, the blood pattern matched Sheeran’s account of how Hoffa was murdered, dragged to the kitchen and wrapped in a body bag. Finally, the former Teamsters boss was cremated. The big issue is that tests on the blood confirmed it didn’t match Hoffa’s blood type. It’s likely that Sheeran did murder someone at the house, but it wasn’t Jimmy Hoffa.

The 55-Gallon Drum

Former Mafia killer Richard Kuklinski claimed he murdered Hoffa in his book ‘The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer.’ The hitman said he killed Hoffa with a knife, burned the body in a 55-gallon drum and dumped it in a junkyard.

The police searched a New Jersey dump in 1975 looking for the drum. An investigative reporter called Dan Moldea interviewed Phillip Moscato, the owner of the dump and a man with mob connections. When Moscato died, Moldea was free to publish the conversation. In it, Moscato confirmed that snitch Ralph Picardo told the FBI of Hoffa’s whereabouts. The dump owner refused to outline how and where Hoffa died but did mention the drum and also said Hoffa wasn’t buried on a farm.

The Many Theories of Jimmy Hoffa’s Disappearance
Jimmy Hoffa.

Other Theories

Another snitch said Hoffa’s body was taken to New Jersey and mixed in the concrete used to build the New York Giants stadium. An episode of Mythbusters put paid to that theory.

Hoffa was allegedly ground up at a meat processing plant in Michigan and either disposed of at a fat-rendering plant or dumped in a Florida swamp.

Salvatore Briguglio and several other underworld figures have also been linked to the crime, but no one has ever been convicted of the murder. The FBI did find a strand of hair in a car driven by Hoffa’s friend Charles O’ Brien. DNA samples were taken, and the hair was confirmed to be Hoffa’s. While the FBI long suspected O’Brien’s involvement in the murder, they didn’t find enough evidence to press charges.

Over 40 years after the disappearance, it is apparent that Hoffa’s body will never be found nor will a killer ever be identified or brought to justice. We expect further weird and wonderful theories to emerge; the fact that this case appears unsolvable makes it all the more intriguing!