SCSO employee remembers brother killed in Nashville hatchet attack


A Sullivan County 911 dispatcher is remembering her brother, one day after Nashville police said a former employee carried out a violent attack at the business he owned.

Nashville police say Domenic Micheli walked into Balance Training on Monday morning and attacked gym manager Joel Paavola with a hatchet.

Investigators said Paavola, a father of five children, died on the way to the hospital.

As family members tell us they are doing their best to remain strong for one another, Nashville police say a manhunt continues for the suspect.

Paavola’s sister, Nicole Penley, is in Nashville tonight, gathering with family there as she grieves the loss of her brother, Joel. 

But the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office employee took some time out of her day to do a FaceTime interview with us, sharing memories of her charismatic and outgoing brother – who police say was attacked and killed Monday.

“He touched lives so uniquely, so deeply. His smile, his blue eyes, his sharp face. He always had a little twinkle in his eye,” Penley said. 

Nicole Penley is remembering the things that made her older brother Joel so special. She said he loved his five children and adored his wife. 

“He left her love notes every morning,” said Nicole.

She said he was passionate about helping others – particularly at the gym he dreamed of building when he moved to Nashville more than 20 years ago. 

“This was his dream to do, to open his own. He worked so hard to get there and he made it happen,” Nicole said. 

But the source of that dream – now a crime scene that police were called to Monday morning, after they say Micheli, a former employee, walked into the gym armed with a hatchet and a second bladed weapon, before attacking his former boss. Police say Micheli managed to run away.

“Grief and anger and fear,” those, the emotions now running through Nicole’s head and heart.

“It’s so unbelievable to have someone you love no longer be here,” she said.

The husband and father was one that Nicole told us, one of Paavola’s children even bragged about. “The coolest dad. That was his oldest son’s favorite thing, it was just his one thing to say, was that my dad was so cool,” she said.

And as she tries to come to terms with the fact that her brother’s life was stripped from hers, forever, she has a simple yet powerful message. 

“You are never promised tomorrow. Never. You don’t take that for granted,” said Nicole.

Nicole is encouraging everyone to share the picture of the man police say murdered her brother, hoping one tip brings them closer to catching the accused killer.

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