Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

Home · Articles · News · Features · Where in the world is Jimmy...
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Where in the world is Jimmy Hoffa?

Anne Stanton - December 21st, 2009
Jimmy Hoffa
Where Are You?
Perhaps an affluent Cadillac subdivision
By Anne Stanton
On a pretty, sunny afternoon 34 years ago, Pete Smith was at work
building a cabin in the woods north of Cadillac near M-55 and 33 Road.
Smith, a strapping 23-year-old, was running low on logs. He hopped in
his truck and went on a quiet ride down a two-track looking for more.
Twenty minutes later, he came upon a couple of well-dressed Italian
guys dressed in black. His first thought: they were definitely out of
place in the woods.
A taller man was closing the trunk of a large shiny black car—maybe an
Oldsmobile or Buick—with a red interior. At the same time, a second
shorter man was emerging out of the edge of the woods. Their black
hair was slicked straight back.
The men met eyes with Smith and nodded. Smith waved and drove away.
Smith suspected he had stumbled upon two gangsters and feared for his
life. His heart racing, he drove to the dead-end of the two-track, out
of sight of the men, and didn’t leave for 45 minutes.
Once he thought it was safe, Smith returned to the spot and walked in
the direction of where he saw the shorter man. After about 25 minutes,
he came upon what appeared to be a freshly dug circle grave about
seven or eight feet in diameter. “It was obvious someone was buried
there,” he said. “Then it hit me. There’s a body here. It dawned upon
me that this was two days after Jimmy Hoffa went missing. This could
be something.”

THE GRAVE SITE
Hoffa, once the powerful president of the Teamster’s Union with
mobster connections, suddenly disappeared on July 30, 1975, never to
be seen again. Smith believes the mobsters chose this remote spot to
bury a body, thinking it was part of the Manistee National Forest. In
fact, the property belonged to his dad, who had recently bought it
from the state.
Smith didn’t take a picture nor did he report the incident to the
cops, not wanting to get involved. Instead he kept quiet until about a
year ago, when he went to the Michigan State Police in Cadillac , who
then referred the case to Agent Robert Birdsong of the Federal Bureau
of Investigation in Traverse City. The grave—if that’s what it is—now
lies in a wooded area of pines and maples in front of a $500,000 home.
Last summer, the FBI contacted the property owner where the body is
allegedly buried, but the owner has refused to let them come on the
property.
“We don’t discuss ongoing cases,” said FBI spokesperson Sandra
Berchtold. “That’s pretty much all we can say. If we do get new leads,
we investigate those leads. Murder has no statute of limitations. We
would have to have probable cause to draft a search warrant and
present it to the general magistrate and get permission to go on the
land. … We follow all leads until the leads are exhausted.”
Smith’s call to the Express was his first outreach to the media, but
he said that over the years, he’s told his close friends and the
property owner about his suspicions. For many years after he came
across the grave, he would visit the site to see if it had been dug
up, but it remained untouched.
Smith requested that the exact location not be published, so as not to
cause undue hardship on the property owner, who he wanted to remain
publicly unnamed.

REGRET
At first, Smith told no one about what he’d seen. He thought to
himself that he’d dig it up, but he wanted to finish building his
cabin before deer season started. Then it was winter and the ground
froze too hard to dig.
Smith’s life was overtaken by work the next year as he began to design
a golf course. And over the next two decades, he remained busy as he
designed another golf course, developed a subdivision around the golf
course, married and raised a family. In short, there just never seemed
to be enough time. “I had a backhoe, a dozer, everything I needed to
dig it up. I just didn’t do it. I always thought I’d get to it later.
I just procrastinated myself out of doing the whole thing. I screwed
up, swear to God, I should have told somebody,” he said.
Even in the 1990s, when he heard there was a $200,000 reward for
information about the Hoffa murder, he didn’t say anything. “I don’t
know why. I just had a lot of things going.”
In 1995, a beautiful house was built on the lot containing the burial
site; Smith told the new owner about the makeshift grave he’d seen.
Smith eventually marked the site with a large rock. At first, the
property owner thought it “was kind of cool,” but over the years he
became much less open to talking about it, Smith said.
About six years ago, when Smith’s work had slowed down significantly,
he saw a television documentary that showed two suspects in the murder
and a car that might have been involved —it was black with a red
interior. “The men looked real familiar to the two people I saw. It
was 20 some years ago that I saw them in the woods, but it looked like
the same guys. I know it was the same car.”

FRUSTRATED EFFORTS
After Smith had contacted the State
Police, he went to the spot himself with the property owner and
another friend while the ground was still partially frozen. Smith
tried to dig up the grave himself, but said his back was in horrible
pain. The other two men refused to help since they didn’t believe his
story and gave Smith a hard time.
The combined pain and humiliation caused Smith to give up after
making little progress.
A detective at the Michigan State Police Post in Cadillac said he told
Smith he wasn’t happy with his efforts to dig up the site. (He added,
however, that the property owner is free to dig up the area.) This
past summer, Smith met with FBI Agent Robert Birdsong in Traverse
City. “I told him (Birdsong) the story twice, and the third time he
told me they tried to get in and dig him up, but the owner didn’t
want anything to do with it, so they didn’t.”
The Cadillac-based detective said the case was referred from the
Traverse City FBI office to FBI officials in Detroit,
who determined there wasn’t evidence to justify a search warrant. He
said the case was cold, and authorities found it strange that Smith
had waited 34 years to report what he’d seen.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first connection to Jimmy Hoffa and
Northern Michigan. Jimmy Hoffa’s son was in Traverse City on the day
of his father’s murder, who was last seen that day at a Bloomfield
Hills restaurant at 2:45 p.m., according to a Hoffex Conference report
generated by the FBI in 1976.

‘WHERE’S HOFFA?’
Smith said he knows people will think he’s crazy, but he knows what he saw.
“I saw two guys in the middle of the woods. Definitely Italians.
Definitely doing something they shouldn’t be doing. I believe my story
should be told. If anybody else saw what I saw, they’d think the same
thing. Jimmy’s gotta be here.”
Could the Italians have buried someone other than Hoffa? Smith has
thought about that too.
“”Say you had a contract to kill Hoffa. You whack him, put him in the
garage. Are you immediately going to whack someone else? These people
are not whacking people every day. They’ve got a job going on.
They’ll solve this problem before they’ll go onto someone else.”
“I know it was a weird thing to see. I did it all wrong, but I saw
what I saw. This would help solve one of the biggest crimes of all
time. It was just on Entertainment —Hoffa was the fourth on the list
of the country’s 20 most unsolved crimes. I’ve heard about him,
‘Where’s Hoffa?’ on 30 shows. It’s the running joke, and I’m the only
guy in the world who knows where he’s buried at, besides the two guys
who buried him. But it’s like seeing a Martian. Even my own mother
can’t believe it.”
Your wife?
“Not really. She’s just tired of the whole thing. But I wouldn’t come
and waste my time and go through all this if I were lying. I’m telling
you the honest truth. I’d like to get this over with and find out
what’s buried there.”

Next week, Dan Moldea, author of Hoffa’s Wars, the critically
acclaimed 1978 book on the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, weighs in on Pete
Smith’s story.

 
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