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October 5, 2012

No human remains found in soil at suspected Hoffa site

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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No human remains found in soil at suspected Hoffa site
Officers watch as soil samples are collected in the shed. Forensic anthropologists at Michigan State University found no signs of human remains in the samples during testing Oct. 1-2.
Roseville Police Chief James Berlin addresses a crowd gathered in the street in front of the driveway rumored to be the burial spot of Teamster Jimmy Hoffa while soil samples were being taken from the scene Sept. 28.
 

ROSEVILLE — Jimmy Hoffa is not buried in Roseville, at least not under the driveway of the home at the corner of Kelly Road and Florida Street.

Forensics collected from the scene revealed no indication of human remains, and police said the investigation into a body being buried beneath the driveway is over.

Responding to a tip from a source that believed he had witnessed a crime at the home in the 18000 block of Florida more than three decades ago, Roseville police performed a preliminary scan of the driveway using ground-penetrating radar Sept. 26, and when a 2-foot-by-5-foot anomaly appeared in the exact location the tipster had reported, they decided to take their investigation one step further.

On Friday morning, Sept. 28, just two days after detectives from the Roseville Police Department  first discovered the anomaly, they began drilling for soil samples.

A crowd of onlookers formed early around the taped-off driveway, and by 10 a.m., when the drilling began, there were more than 100 people gathered around the driveway that backs to the 29000 block of Kelly Road.

The sample collection didn’t take long, concluding before noon, after two 6-foot samples were collected in four plastic tubes that were stored at the Roseville Police Department prior to being transported to Michigan State University for testing by a forensic pathologist Oct. 1.

Among the crowd and national news media, speculation ran wild on whether the body of the infamous Teamster could be buried there.

“He’s not there,” said 22-year-old Roseville resident Giovanni Cracchiolo. “He’s gone. He’s not going to be anywhere. You can’t find him. He’s gone. If he was, that would be insane, but he’s not. If there is a body there, it’s not him.”

“I don’t know,” said an elderly female neighbor from one block over, who asked not to be named. “I heard stories about that house growing up. It used to be a numbers house.”

Other neighbors swapped rumors about a man who bought the house in the late ‘70s, but was reputed to be living there prior to that, being a bookie for the mob, but Police Chief James Berlin maintained throughout the investigation that other than the tip, the department had no way of knowing who, if anyone, was buried there.

Breaking from the soil collection throughout the morning to address the crowd, Berlin held steadfast that the investigation was the same as any other of a similar nature, saying, “Even if human remains are discovered, we will continue under the assumption that a John Doe is interred here.” He reminded the crowd that the anomaly could be “a root of a tree or the remains of an animal.”

After the sample was collected, Berlin offered one final update to the dispersing crowd.

“There were no visible evidence of remains in the samples collected, but given the length of time the body has been there, if there is a body there, depending on the state of decomposition, there might not be any visual signs,” he said.

“There are no skeletons out in the woods, but animals die everyday — the parasites and other animals will breeze through them,” Berlin elaborated. “The type of soil and amount of water in the soil also affect the decomposition rate, but the forensic anthropologists are trained to analyze all those different environmental factors and tell if a body is there, and how long it has been there, by looking at bug casings and all sorts of little things. It’s a very technical specialization of forensic science.”

He added that the property would continue to be treated like a crime scene until the test results came back, but there was no way to tell if it was actually a crime scene until then, and no matter what the results revealed, there was still no proof that if a body was there, it was that of Hoffa.

His determination to keep the investigation separate from the hype whirling around it proved well worth it.

On Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 2, after receiving the test results from Michigan State University, Berlin announced the investigation was closed.

“After a battery of tests, the samples submitted for examination showed no signs of human decomposition,” he said, adding he was confident in the results. “We are concluding our investigation.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.