BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Nearly three decades after Jimmy Hoffa vanished, a close friend of the former Teamsters boss said he understands the Hoffa family's grief, but not their belief that he is somehow responsible.
"This disappearance has me hurting, too," Charles "Chuckie" O'Brien told the Palm Beach Post for Sunday's editions. "I loved this man more than anything. "
O'Brien was speaking publicly for the first time since The Detroit News reported Friday that the FBI found a hair from Hoffa in a car O'Brien was driving on July 30, 1975, the day of the disappearance.
O'Brien had denied Hoffa was in the car.
He said he has been interviewed by FBI agents over the years, most recently last month during a five-day visit. FBI agents did not say why they interviewed O'Brien.
Hoffa's body was never found, and his disappearance has been the subject of widespread speculation. He was presumed dead after vanishing from a Detroit-area restaurant.
"I have my theories about what happened," O'Brien said. "But the FBI has always pooh-poohed them." He would not elaborate.
The car was owned by the son of reputed Mafia figure Anthony Giacalone. O'Brien told investigators in 1975 he borrowed it to deliver a frozen salmon to the home of Robert Holmes, then president of Teamsters Local 337.
The delivery put O'Brien in the area of the Machus Red Fox restaurant, where Hoffa was supposed to meet with Giacalone and New Jersey Teamsters boss and underworld associate Anthony Provenzano.
Neither man showed up. Both said no meeting had been scheduled.
Investigators believe Hoffa, then 62, was picked up outside the restaurant and killed. Hoffa's family believes only a close friend, such as O'Brien, could have persuaded Hoffa to get in the car.
Federal officials said they hope to decide whether to prosecute someone in the Hoffa case no later than December 2003, according to an affidavit filed in June.