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Authorities continue investigating a December death at a Largo strip club

LARGO — Sandra Mosely still hasn't buried her son. She won't until she finds out how the 34-year-old died two months ago after a fight at a strip club on U.S 19.

"I've been dwelling on my son," said Mosely, 53. "Sometimes I don't sleep for days. I just can't until I get some answers."

Mosely and the rest of the family may have to wait a while longer to find out what happened to Jayson Zalewski.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is wrapping up its investigation, but it won't release the findings yet. This week, it plans to present the case to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office to "determine if there was any foul play," said sheriff's Sgt. Tom Nestor.

Autopsy results have not been released, either, because of the ongoing investigation.

Nestor won't discuss details of the case, but said that Zalewski didn't die of natural causes.

Napoleon Taumoepeau, Zalewski's cousin, is crushed by the loss. But he was happy to learn that authorities are seriously scrutinizing the case.

"I was so afraid that things were going to get swept under the rug," said Taumoepeau, 33, who grew up with Zalewski and thinks of him as a brother.

On Dec. 29, Zalewski went to the 24 Karat Gentleman's Club about midnight to see his girlfriend, who worked there, Taumoepeau said.

"They were going through rocky times," Taumoepeau said. "I think she left him for a day or two."

Few details have been released about what happened after that. But, according to early accounts, witnesses told detectives this:

Zalewski was kicked out of the full liquor, topless club after he became disorderly. Outside the club at 16717 U.S. 19 N, north of East Bay Drive, he swung at a patron who tried to calm him down, and the club's general manager, Cecil E. Chapman, stepped in while other workers called authorities.

When deputies arrived about 2:30 a.m. Dec. 30, Chapman was holding Zalewski down on the ground. Deputies said they tried to handcuff Zalewski and discovered he was not breathing. He was taken to Largo Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

A lawyer representing the club and Chapman said his clients have cooperated with authorities and will continue to do so.

"That particular club has never had a problem like that. Cecil (Chapman) has been managing clubs probably his entire adult life and has never had an incident like this happen," said Brandon L. Kolb, a St. Petersburg lawyer.

Chapman, 40, said he "can't say much at all" until he learns more about the investigation.

Taumoepeau said his cousin may have caused a scene that night.

"But he did not deserve to die," he said.

Zalewski's mom admits her son was a bit of a partier.

"Every now and then, he'd drink and maybe do a line of coke," she said.

And he had some brushes with the law, including convictions on a 1998 charge of assault during the course of a burglary and a 2005 charge of grand theft, state records show.

But family members said Zalewski was an upbeat, good-hearted guy.

"He did not have one evil bone in his body. He was a very loving person who never held grudges," Taumoepeau said.

Zalewski never knew his biological father and was raised mostly by his grandparents, Arlene and Paul Zalewski, Taumoepeau said.

Zalewski went to Osceola Middle School and graduated from Osceola High, where he was on the football team with Taumoepeau.

Maegan Marlow, who went to high school with Zalewski, said he was popular among all different crowds.

Until recently, Zalewski had worked at his cousin Danny Taumoepeau's landscaping business and coached Azalea Bulldogs youth flag football. Zalewski adored his 2-year-old son, also named Jayson, and would often volunteer to babysit for Danny Taumoepeau so he could take his wife out to dinner, he said.

Zalewski also took care of his mother, who has an aggressive form of skin cancer on her face.

"Anything I needed, he'd come over and do for me," she said.

On Jan. 8, the family held a memorial for Zalewski at Gasoline Alley Cafe, a Largo rock club. More than 100 people showed up to celebrate his life, and more than 600 have joined his Facebook memorial page.

But the family hasn't held a funeral for Zalewski because his body is being stored at a Seminole morgue in case the family decides to have an independent autopsy.

"If he died because of somebody else's fault, I want answers and I want them to pay for it," Taumoepeau said.

Zalewski's mother and other relatives say their lives are on hold until they find out what happened to him.

"I'm obsessed with it. It's on my mind all the time until I get some answers," Mosely said. "Until I find out something, I can't move on."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Authorities continue investigating a December death at a Largo strip club 02/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 26, 2011 1:20pm]

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