Community remembers man killed in 2018 hatchet attack

Posted at 12:37 PM, Jun 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-04 20:30:39-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The community came together to remember the life of Joel Paavola one year after he was killed at his Belle Meade gym.

Authorities said Paavola was attacked on June 4, 2018 at The Balance Training fitness center by a man who was armed with a hatchet and a cleaver. The 46-year-old later died from his injuries.

The brutal killing shocked the community.

On Tuesday, dozens of family and friends gathered at the same gym to pay tribute to Paavola, who left behind a wife and five children.

"We're holding up and staying positive and keeping our hopes up even though we do miss him everyday," his daughter 18-year-old Elliston Paavola told NewsChannel 5.

Paavola's loved ones described him as clever, funny, joyful and wise.

The gym was decorated with butterflies, a symbol many have come to know that Paavola is watching over them.

"When we see a yellow butterfly, that means it's dad floating around us. We see them everyday so many people see them, and we see them in such special times that we need him," Elliston added.

His accused killer, Domenic Micheli, is awaiting trial in the case. Detectives testified that Micheli, who had been fired from the gym a year earlier, confessed to the killing.

Micheli showed signs of mental illness. Joel's wife has filed a lawsuit against the corrections department and a halfway house in Washington D.C. where he had escaped from after his arrest at the White House. The lawsuit alleges negligence for not immediately reporting the escape, and blames authorities for failing to use his social media posts to track him down before coming back to Nashville and killing Paavola.

Micheli has a court hearing scheduled on Thursday, June 6.

Paavola's family is planning to host a small music event in November called the Joel Stroll to not only remember the father but raise awareness for mental health issues.