For more than 30 years, the running gag about the disappearance of former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa was that he was buried in the end zone of Giants Stadium.
The stadium was built in 1975, around the last time the union leader was last seen outside a Detroit restaurant – and a day after he was spotted leaving a meeting in a union headquarters in Union City.
But a new book written about notorious Mafia hit man and former North Bergen resident Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski may shed a different light on the disappearance.
In a book to be released in July, The Iceman: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo, Kuklinski admits to having stabbed Hoffa in the back of the neck in Detroit, then driving his body back to Kearny and dumping it in the swamps.
Kuklinski died just last month in a Trenton hospital at the age of 70, near Trenton State Prison, where he was serving several consecutive life sentences for murder.
Some federal investigators have said they don’t believe all of Kuklinski’s tales.
“Everything I could do to bolster if what he told me was true, I tried to do,” author Carlo said last week. “He wasn’t an easy man to interview.”
According to the book, Kuklinski claimed that on July 29, 1975, he and four other men drove from New Jersey to Detroit to kill Hoffa. The book refers to the men as “Tony P.,” a pair of brothers named “Gabe” and “Sal,” and “another guy named Tommy.”
The men whom Kuklinski named are more than likely Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano, Gabriel and Salvatore Briguglio, and Thomas Andretta. Those four men were suspected of having something to do with Hoffa’s disappearance and were the focus of a grand jury investigation regarding Hoffa’s apparent murder. But since Hoffa’s disappearance, all four have denied having anything to do with Hoffa’s disappearance and none have been charged.
Salvatore Briguglio was a reputed mob hit man who was also the business agent for Provenzano’s Teamsters local union.
According to the book, the men took the 10-hour drive to the suburban Detroit restaurant where Hoffa was eating.
Hoffa got into the car with the men. Then, Kuklinski claims to have hit Hoffa in the back of the head with a blackjack, then plunged a hunting knife into the back of his neck.
Kuklinski said that the men put Hoffa’s body in a body bag at a rest stop in Bloomfield, Mich., and drove back to New Jersey with Hoffa’s body in the trunk. They allegedly took the body to a junkyard in Kearny.
Kuklinski, a native of Jersey City who resided in North Bergen for almost 20 years, said that once the group got to Kearny, Hoffa’s body was placed in a 50-gallon drum and set on fire.
The drum was then sealed and buried in the junkyard. However, feeling the heat about the disappearance, the drum was later dug up and placed in the trunk of a car that was crushed and sold as scrap metal to Japanese car makers.
“He’s part of a car somewhere in Japan right now,” Kuklinski says of Hoffa in the book.
Admits several other hits
Kuklinski got his nickname because he apparently kept some of his murdered victims in a freezer in a North Bergen garage.
In the book, Kuklinski, who has admitted to killing more than 200 people, said he also helped to gun down Gambino crime boss “Big” Paul Castellano outside a popular Manhattan steak house. He also said that he personally tortured the neighbor of Mafia boss John Gotti after the neighbor accidentally ran over and killed Gotti’s infant son.
Kuklinski also said he was the one who fired the fatal shots into Bonanno crime boss Carmine Galante while Galante had lunch in an outdoor Brooklyn café. The photo of the bullet-riddled Galante, complete with a half-smoked cigar still in his mouth, appeared on the front pages of the New York Daily News and New York Post and became one of the best-known photos in Mafia history.
If Kuklinski’s stories are true, he would become one of the most notorious mass murderers in American history. However, no one will know the truth with Kuklinski’s passing last month.
Carlo, who has also written “Night Stalker,” a biography about California mass murderer Richard Ramirez, said he spent more than 240 hours interviewing Kuklinski for this latest book.
Kuklinski told Carlo that he received $40,000 for the hit on Hoffa.
As for the other high profiled hits, Kuklinski said in the book that Gotti paid him to take care of the neighbor, John Favara, who accidentally killed Gotti’s young son Frank when ran over the youngster with a car.
Several months after the accident, Kuklinski claims in the book, a group of men including himself and Gene Gotti, the Teflon Don’s brother, grabbed Favara outside his home and put him in a car.
Kuklinski claimed that they then drove Favara to a Brooklyn junkyard, where Gene Gotti and the others beat him unconscious before turning over Favara to the vicious Kuklinski.
“I went to work on him, bound him and tore off his clothes and used emergency flares to torture him,” the book states.
Kuklinski said that he also took care of Castellano and Castellano’s driver, Tommy Bilotti, in 1986, again hired by Gotti. He said he worked with Sammy “The Bull” Gravano in that hit.
However, when Gravano turned state’s evidence and started naming names for all the hits he did for Gotti in return for immunity in 19 different murders, Kuklinski’s name never came up in either killing.
Kuklinski had admitted killing New York City detective Peter Calabro in Saddle River, N.J. in 1980 on a contract from Gravano in a 2001 HBO special, and then copped a plea in 2003 on that murder. Bergen County officials brought murder charges against Gravano as well in that case, but the charges have now been dropped since Kuklinski’s death last month.
Brutal beginnings in JC
Other than the more famous murders, the book details Kuklinski’s life and begins with Kuklinski’s younger days in Jersey City.
In the book, Kuklinski tells Carlo of the vicious abuse he received at the hands of his alcoholic father – claims that were first addressed during Kuklinski’s two HBO documentaries.
However, there was some new information – like Kuklinski actually watching his father beat Kuklinski’s younger brother to death.
In the book, Kuklinski talks about murdering hundreds of stray cats and dogs for sport, then turning his attention to humans by preying on dozens of homeless people in New York City during the 1950s and ’60s, coming up with new methods by imitating Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons.
Another horrifying tale was Kuklinski telling of a contract that he received to kill a man in Miami who had raped a prominent Mafia boss’ daughter. Kuklinski found the man in Miami, tied him to a palm tree, and then put several small incisions in the man’s body. Then he poured a box of table salt over him. After that, Kuklinski put a life jacket on the man, threw him in the Atlantic Ocean, and watched him being eaten by a pool of tiger sharks.
While excerpts of Carlo’s book were released to the media, several people close to the case question the validity of the claims from “The Iceman.”
A former FBI agent who was assigned to the disappearance of Hoffa declared the claims a hoax.
“I’ve never even heard of this guy,” said former FBI investigator Robert Garrity, who now runs a security firm in Pittsburgh. “Believe me, if his name came up, with all the things we did in that case, I would have remembered it. This is the biggest joke ever.”
“They took a body from Detroit, where they have one of the biggest lakes in the world, and drove it all the way back to New Jersey? Come on,” Bob Buccino, the former chief of organized crime investigations for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice told the Record of Hackensack in editions printed Monday. “It’s all very hard to believe. We didn’t believe a lot of things he said.”
Frank Sheeran, a former Delaware Teamsters leader and also a mob hit man, had claimed in 2004 that he was the one who killed Hoffa in a house in Detroit. Sheeran also died before his biography was published.