For Zachary Bernhardt's family, 'nightmare' continues 20 years later
CLEARWATER, Fla. - It has been 20 years since 8-year-old Zachary Bernhardt vanished without a trace. Today, detectives and family members continue their search for answers.
“It’s like an emotional rollercoaster. You go up and down, up and down a lot,” said Billie-Jo Jimenez. She and other family members have never stopped looking for Zachary.
Time has not made the pain any easier.
“Here we are at the 20-year mark, and still no closer to knowing anything more about his disappearance than we did the first day that he disappeared,” Jimenez said about her nephew.
Clearwater police say Zachary’s mother called to report the 8-year-old missing just before 5 a.m. on September 11, 2000. Investigators call the disappearance suspicious.
“He didn’t even have a working bicycle. So to say that somebody, at 8 years old, gets up and just leaves at 4:47 a.m., I think it would be outside the norm,” said Lt. Michael Walek with Clearwater P.D.
Over the last two decades, police have worked hard, pouring over evidence and following up on hundreds of leads. However, there has been no trace of Zachary.
“You don’t want to live this nightmare, it’s a nightmare, it’s not something you want to do,” Jimenez said.
The family has never given up hope that Zachary, who would now be 28 years old, will be found safe.
“I believe that he was taken from his home by an abductor, someone that has watched him go back and forth to school from where he went,” said Jimenez.
Zachary’s missing-person case is still open. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement lists him as one of seven children missing and in danger, the longest running Amber Alert in the state.
His family has found peace, but they still want answers.
“Someone out there knows something, and somebody is going to come forward,” Walek said.
Investigators say even the smallest detail could be the key to solving this cold case. If you know anything about what happened to Zachary, call Clearwater police.