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Missing man turns up in Pensacola


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 1, 2000

Clifford Hayslette set out from Tampa on May 2 for his daughter's house in Land O'Lakes. But before he got there, he lost his memory.

With severe amnesia and no sense of time and place, the 72-year-old man wound up back in Tampa for weeks, living in a Budget Inn while family members unsuccessfully searched for him. On June 23, he got on a Greyhound bus and turned up Wednesday in Pensacola with the children of his ex-wife.

Hayslette's family members said Friday that he still was shaken from his ordeal, but slowly is recovering his memory. "He seemed pretty traumatized by the whole experience. At first he only thought he was in a couple of hotels for two days," said Daniel Ponton, Hayslette's son-in-law. "But they said physically, he's okay."

Hayslette will stay with the Pensacola relatives until next week, when Ponton and his wife, Noni, plan to bring him back to the Tampa area.

Noni Ponton first filed a missing persons report June 14. By that time, Hayslette had been gone for weeks, although Pasco sheriff's deputies had records of several checks from his account that were cashed at Tampa banks' drive-through tellers.

At the time, Ponton was convinced someone other than her father was cashing the checks, because her father never used drive-throughs.

But Hayslette's behavior in the past month had been erratic.

"He's got lots of friends and relatives, and he couldn't remember anybody," Daniel Ponton said.

Family members said the amnesia probably resulted from a bump on the head Hayslette got in a mugging a few days before he disappeared.

The Pontons had called almost every family member they could think of looking for Hayslette. They didn't call the Pensacola relatives because they hadn't spoken to them in 25 years, Daniel Ponton said, adding that he did not even know their names.

But they were the only relatives Hayslette could remember.

On June 23, a friend of the Pontons spotted Hayslette at a bus station in Tampa and mentioned it to another friend, who knew Hayslette was missing. The Pontons called the bus station and found out Hayslette was headed to Pensacola. Soon after that, the relatives called to say Hayslette was safe, sound and found.

"We're all just relieved," Daniel Ponton said.

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