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Friends and family in Bradenton remember stabbing victim Russell Byrd

BRADENTON -- About 60 of Russell Byrd's family members and friends met at Club 720 Monday night and held an emotional candlelight vigil in honor of the 44-year-old former Bradenton resident, who worked at the club and was allegedly stabbed to death by his wife on Sept. 25.

After gathering inside the club, the crowd walked outside with their lit candles, igniting the night sky around the 720 Ninth Ave. W. club.

To Byrd's sister, Patrice Coley, the light reminded her of her brother's light for people, peace and just having a good time.

"This makes me realize that we need to stop abuse in my brother's name," Coley said. "Abuse is abuse."

At nearly the exact time the vigil was being held Monday, another incident of domestic violence claimed the life of a 67-year-old woman in Manatee County.

Claire Fleming was allegedly shot by her husband, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, who has charged her husband Tom Fleming with murder.

Byrd's family members said Sharon Byrd, who has been arrested and charged in St. Petersburg with second degree murder, loved Russell but was often jealous of his popularity, which ignited rages and fights.

Police said that just before stabbing Russell Byrd multiple times in the chest at their St. Petersburg home, Sharon Byrd thought her husband was on the phone with a girlfriend but it turned out to be his sister.

Monday night was not all about the Byrd's tragic final fight.

It was about remembering a man described as full of life.

"He would give you the shirt off his back," Club 720 owner Rick Waiters said of Byrd, who lived in Bradenton until 2010 when he moved to St. Petersburg.

Waiters called Byrd his right hand man at the club.

"He did it all," Waiters said. "If I needed a DJ, he would do it. He would bartend. He would clean the bathrooms and not a word of back talk. It's sad. It's like he's around the corner. There is nothing he wouldn't do for me."

"I will always remember his smile," said Byrd's sister, Tiffany Joseph. "He loved everyone."

Byrd spent time in the U.S. Army, said his father, James C. Byrd, who attended the vigil.

"He was laid back and outgoing. Everyone liked him. I still find it unbelievable. I broke down. The rage came out of nowhere. I'm sure he didn't see it coming," James Byrd said.

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