DETROIT — Unsolved mysteries are not so unusual in Jersey City.
The case of a 1958 murder of Teamsters leader James Hoffa remains one of them, one that dates back to the mob’s heyday and is widely believed to have been solved, only to be revived time and again.
Now police in Newark, New Jersey, have released a mug shot of a man identified as a person of interest in Hoffa’s disappearance after he went missing from a suburban Detroit restaurant in 1975.
The mug shot, in which Hoffa’s eyes are distinctly visible, was obtained from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Chicago in 1985.
The older photo shows William Pepin Mellorcia standing next to Hoffa at a strip club in Chicago.
The younger photo shows Mellorcia in 1975 next to Hoffa and another man who has not been identified.
The older photo was taken four days after Hoffa disappeared. It shows Hoffa among a crowd outside a pub in Chicago; the younger photo shows Mellorcia, who is hissing at people outside the building.
According to the FBI, Hoffa drove to the restaurant that night, headed for New Jersey to join a state senator named Jack Tertzakian. A friend later told authorities that Hoffa told him he was in Detroit because he believed he was being tipped off to an upcoming meeting with powerful business owners.
Hoffa left his car near a building and walked a few blocks to the restaurant, where he was supposed to speak with Tertzakian, who told the FBI that Hoffa appeared disheveled and was speaking incoherently.
When he went into the restaurant, Hoffa disappeared.
Seven months later, a body was found in Oakland Township, southwest of Detroit.
It was identified as Hoffa’s but it was too badly decomposed to be sure.
Eventually, the man was identified as being Tony Zerilli, who was wanted for suspected gangster activities. He died in 2001.
Zerilli told authorities that Hoffa was murdered, but there were discrepancies, according to reports from 1971. Hoffa’s body was buried in a shallow grave in Oakland Township. Authorities found only fragments of bones.