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Clearwater boy reported lost

A Clearwater telemarketer takes an early morning walk, but when she returns home her 8-year-old son is nowhere to be found.

An 8-year-old boy disappeared from a Clearwater apartment complex early Monday, and a daylong search by police officers and a tracking dog failed to find the child.

Towheaded and blue-eyed, Zachary Bernardt was reported missing about 4:45 a.m. Leah Hackett, the boy's 29-year-old mother, told police she last saw him asleep in their townhouse just before she went for a walk around the Savannah Trace complex.

"He's a missing, endangered boy," said Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor.

Police searched the large complex at 2690 Drew St., just east of U.S. 19, and nearby apartment complexes. Vacant apartments were checked, and the boy's friends were interviewed. Officials at Eisenhower Elementary School, where Zachary is a pupil, were contacted, but no one reported seeing him.

At 4 p.m., a bloodhound and deputy from Manatee County arrived at Hackett's townhouse in the southeast corner of the complex.

The dog sniffed some of the boy's clothing, went to a wall and took off toward another complex to the east to search unsuccessfully for about an hour.

The parking lot outside the townhouse Hackett leases was surrounded by yellow tape. Numbered evidence markers were placed at tire tracks, a discarded plastic jug and other items left in the parking lot.

"He's a very smart kid," said neighbor Susan Dalton.

"All the kids know him around here. I saw him (Sunday) afternoon, out by himself, with his new black puppy."

Hackett, who could not be reached, told police Zachary was home alone when she went for a walk in the complex at 4 a.m. When she returned at 4:15 a.m., he was gone, she told police. She looked around, checked at a neighbor's apartment and called police at 4:45 a.m.

"We have been told he's well-behaved and a good student who has never run away," Shelor said. "We have no indication of what might have happened."

He said Zachary's father did not live with Hackett, who works as a telemarketer and has lived at the complex about a year. Hackett also has a 6-year-old daughter who lives in Michigan.

"She takes real good care of Zack," said Dalton. "He's always polite and friendly. She keeps to herself and doesn't let too many people in her house."

Unable to sleep, Dalton said she got up about 3 a.m. Monday and went outside to smoke a cigarette.

Hackett was seen pulling into the parking lot about 3 a.m., which detectives said she denied.

Pinellas County civil court records show a real estate company filed documents Sept. 5 to declare Hackett a delinquent tenant, a step in the eviction process.

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