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Man dies after disturbance outside Clearwater strip club

CLEARWATER — Friends of a Seminole man who died outside a Clearwater strip club say accounts about his behavior at the club don't match the fun-loving, easygoing guy they knew.

Authorities don't know yet how Jayson P. Zalewski, 34, died. But they say witnesses told them Zalewski became disorderly early Thursday inside the 24 Karat Gentleman's Club and was asked to leave.

That doesn't sound like Zalewski, said his friend Amy Miller.

"He had some problems in the past, but he's turned himself around and he wanted to take care of his babies," said Miller, 32. "He's one of those people that can get along with anybody."

Miller and another friend said they thought Zalewski had two sons, one of them named after him.

Deputies received a call about 2:30 a.m. about a disturbance at the full liquor, topless club at 16717 U.S. 19 N.

Here's what witnesses told them:

After Zalewski left the club, he took off his jacket as if he wanted to fight. Another patron tried to calm him down, but Zalewski tried to punch him. The club's general manager, Cecil E. Chapman, stepped in while other staff called the Sheriff's Office.

Deputies arrived to find Chapman holding Zalewski on the ground. They were informed that Zalewski caused the disturbance.

As deputies tried to handcuff Zalewski, they realized he was not breathing. They began CPR. Zalewski was transported to Largo Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 3:36 a.m.

Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Chapman said it had been "a long day." He didn't want to comment before discussing the matter with his attorney, he said.

"It just happened," said Chapman, 40. "My head's still kind of a blur about it."

Day shift manager Tasha Murine said she wasn't at the club during the incident and didn't know Zalewski. She heard that he didn't come there often, but that, when he did, he was not nice to one of the dancers.

"The entire management staff of 24 Kt Gentleman's Club is taken-aback by the unfortunate events," lawyer Brandon L. Kolb wrote in an e-mail Thursday afternoon.

He said Chapman and all of the other witnesses have been cooperating with authorities and will continue to do so.

The Sheriff's Office Robbery/Homicide Unit is handling the investigation. An autopsy will be done to determine the cause of Zalewski's death, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Tom Nestor. Results from toxicology tests could take several weeks.

Family friend Donna Douglas-Thurnau said Zalewski was one of her late son's dearest friends. Her own son died three years ago from complications related to an enlarged heart, she said.

Zalewski attended Osceola High with her son and recently Zalewski had worked in a lawn maintenance business, she said.

"He was a ray of sunshine like my son," said Douglas-Thurnau, 53.

Zalewski has been arrested several times since 1995 and has spent more than two years in the state prison system on charges including assault during the course of a burglary and grand theft, state records show.

On his Facebook page, Zalewski describes himself as "a social butterfly."

"I'm very open-minded and I can get along with almost anyone. I love to laugh! Im a big joking kind of guy... LOL," he wrote.

By late Thursday afternoon, about 70 friends had posted condolences and fond memories on his Facebook page.

"I never knew a happier, cheerier person in all my life," one wrote. "You had a special ability to brighten any room. You will be greatly missed."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Man dies after disturbance outside Clearwater strip club 12/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 30, 2010 7:51pm]
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