DETROIT (AP) _ A hair from Jimmy Hoffa was found in a car that a longtime friend was driving the day the former Teamsters president disappeared 26 years ago, The Detroit News reported Friday.
FBI scientists matched DNA from hair taken from Hoffa's brush with that of a strand found in the borrowed car that Charles ``Chuckie'' O'Brien had been using on July 30, 1975, the newspaper reported, citing unidentified two sources familiar with the investigation.
O'Brien has maintained Hoffa never was in the car, and he repeatedly has denied any role in Hoffa's disappearance.
Hoffa, the legendary Teamsters boss from 1957 until 1971, disappeared from a Detroit-area restaurant and is presumed dead. He was 62. His son is now Teamsters president.
Hoffa disappeared after going to the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, ostensibly for a meeting with reputed Mafia figure Anthony Giacalone and New Jersey Teamsters boss and underworld associate Anthony Provenzano.
Neither man showed up; both said no meeting had been scheduled.
The car O'Brien was using was owned by Giacalone's son Joe.
Investigators believe Hoffa was picked up outside the restaurant and killed. Despite a massive investigation, his body never has been found.
Investigators and Hoffa family members have said O'Brien, who was taken in by Hoffa as a child, was one of the few people who could have persuaded Hoffa to get into a car that afternoon.
``We have re-interviewed Mr. O'Brien, but I can't say anything more about that,'' said John E. Bell Jr., special agent in charge of the Detroit FBI bureau.
O'Brien could not be reached for comment after phone calls were placed to his office in Memphis, Tenn., the newspaper said.
Bell said DNA tests were done on all the evidence, but he declined to comment on the results. Federal agents have met regularly in the past 11 months to discuss the case, Bell told the newspaper.
Dawn Clenney, an FBI spokeswoman in Detroit, told The Associated Press on Friday she had no immediate comment about the report.
Hoffa's son, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, said through a union spokesman that he did not want to speculate on the impact of the DNA evidence.
In a statement Friday, Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell added: ``The union is heartened by news of a possible breakthrough in the case. We hope those who are responsible for the disappearance of the general president's father are brought to justice in a prompt manner.''
Hoffa's daughter, Barbara Ann Crancer, said she was aware last winter that the FBI was conducting DNA tests.
``He (O'Brien) was driving the car the day my father disappeared in the vicinity of the Red Fox,'' said Crancer, who is a judge in St. Louis. ``If my dad's hair was in the car, he was there.''
Federal officials said they hoped to decide whether to prosecute someone in connection with the Hoffa case no later than December 2003, according to a federal court affidavit filed in June.
In October 1975, the FBI said in a memo that the disappearance was likely connected to Hoffa's attempts to regain power within the Teamsters Union and its possible effect on the mob's control of Teamster pension funds.
``Our theory of the case hasn't changed,'' Bell said.