Nashville Health Club Owner Killed While Overseeing Morning Workout

Police crime scene tape
(Photo by LPETTET/iStock/Getty Images Plus.)

A health club owner was murdered in his Tennessee fitness facility, and one of his former employees has been charged with the crime.

Domenic Micheli, 36, is alleged to have killed Joel Paavola, 46, owner and manager of the Balance Training fitness club in Nashville in an attack on June 4. Paavola had fired Micheli from his job at the club 14 months ago, according to the Tennessean. After a multi-state manhunt, Kentucky State Police arrested Micheli on June 5 near Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Micheli waived formal extradition proceedings to Tennessee and provided a detailed statement admitting to killing Paavola, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department. A search of Micheli’s vehicle yielded a hatchet and a large knife, the suspected murder weapons, according to the department. Micheli returned to Nashville in police custody on June 8 and is being held without bond on a charge of criminal homicide, according to the Tennessean. Micheli previously had been arrested on April 27 for driving his car to a checkpoint near the White House and refusing to move.

Paavola was assisting clients with a workout routine when Micheli is alleged to have entered the Balance Training facility and attacked Paavola with the hatchet and knife, striking him multiple times before running from the scene, according to the police report. Paavola died while being transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Friends of Paavola set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for his wife and five children. As of June 11, the effort had already raised more than $240,000 – easily surpassing the page’s $75,000 goal. Mourners posted tributes to Paavola on the GoFundMe page, on social media and on, where an obituary detailed Paavola’s life. On Facebook, Balance Training remembered “a boss, co-worker, mentor, training partner, and dear friend.” Those who shared memories of Paavola emphasized his love for his family and his authentic enthusiasm for his clients.

“You were my first trainer,” read a post from Eileen Tomson on “You taught me physical strength and spiritual strength. Your energy and enthusiasm never stayed below a 10, because you lived for your family, friends, teaching and bringing all of us to a better plane. You had the ability to push us beyond what we thought we could ever accomplish.”

According to the Tennessean, Micheli began to work for Paavola approximately five years ago when the Balance Training facility opened. A police spokesman told the paper that Micheli was fired for attempting to poach clients for a facility he was considering opening.

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