At least three gym-goers witnessed the gruesome stabbing attack — and the suspected perpetrator is still on the run, Nashville police said.
Armed with a hatchet, Domenic Micheli, 36, showed up around 7 a.m. Monday at the gym where he used to work in Nashville’s Belle Meade community, according to police. Then Micheli used the hatchet to stab Balance Training gym manager Joel Paavola, 46, police said.
"Micheli brutally, savagely attacked Paavola at the front of the business," Don Aaron, a police spokesman, told The Associated Press.
The attack killed Paavola. He had fired Micheli from the gym 14 months earlier, according to police.
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Aaron said police were not aware of any recent contact between the two men.
In the moments before the stabbing, Micheli could be seen on surveillance camera footage pacing in the parking lot below the strip mall where the gym is located, the Tennessean reports. Police said Micheli had another “cutting instrument” with him in addition to the hatchet — possibly another hatchet, or a long knife.
Police said they are working to get a murder warrant for Micheli. He was last spotted driving an older model Toyota Yaris, and he should be considered armed and dangerous, according to police.
Anyone who sees either Micheli or the vehicle is asked to call Nashville police at 615-862-8600.
Those who knew Paavola said Micheli had taken to writing long, paranoid screeds on Facebook recently, WSMV reports.
Micheli isn't a stranger to law enforcement: Just two months ago, he was arrested outside of the White House for not moving his vehicle from a checkpoint, Nashville police said.
Friends and clients of Paavola described him as a fitness guru.
“I went through boot camp twice with Joel. He was one of the nicest, most dedicated human beings,” Randy Rayburn, a restaurateur who trained with Paavola for years, told the Tennessean. “Joel was one of the most enthusiastic and well-rounded people I’ve ever known in my life … He was just a wonderful father and human being.”
“He was bright, happy-go-lucky, and never ceased to make you smile. He always put his family first, and we want that to carry on after his unfortunate passing,” the GoFundMe page said. “His wife and 5 children were the most important and loved people in his life.”