'Storage Wars' star dies: Mark Balelo was 40
Mark Balelo, who appeared on the A&E reality show "Storage Wars," has died at age 40, two days after he was arrested on a drug charge.
Balelo, who celebrated his birthday about two weeks ago, was found dead at his workplace north of Los Angeles, authorities told the Ventura County Star newspaper. One of his employees found his body in his car, according to People magazine, which quoted a TMZ report that said he had commited suicide. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.
"Thank you to everyone for all your thoughts and kind words," his fiancee Elisabeth Metzidis said on his Facebook page. "Mark lived for his friends and family and would so appreciate everyone here for their love. We are truly and completely devastated by this. Mark was everything. EM."
On Saturday, police had arrested Balelo on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine.
The Portugal-born auctioneer was raised in Brazil and lived in the Los Angeles area. He was the President and CEO of Balelo, Inc., an auction house, wholesaler and distributor. He also owned a gaming store. In 2011, Balelo began appearing on "Storage Wars," in which cast members bid on abandoned storage lockers in hopes of finding valuables or other rare items to sell for a profit.
Balelo and co-star Dan Dotson, who also runs an auction house and acts as the auctioneer for the bidders of the lockers, made headlines that year for helping to find a rare $1 million copy of a 1938 comic book that featured Superman's debut. It was stolen from actor Nicolas Cage in 2000 and the theft sparked a police investigation.
Through Dotson's company, a man had bought an abandoned storage locker, where the comic book, Action Comics #1, had been stored. After the buyer inquired about its worth, the auctioneer then arranged a meeting between him and Balelo, who was more knowledgeable about collectibles, the Ventura County Star said.
The newspaper reported that Balelo then sent photos of it to the comics dealer who had sold the issue to Cage. He confirmed its authenticity and the book was seized by police as evidence.
"STORAGE WARS" STARS MOURN MARK BALELO
Dotson and other "Storage Wars" co-stars Tweeted their condolences over Balelo's death.
"Our hearts & prayers go out to Mark's small children & family as well as his devoted fiancee Elizabeth. RIP Mark Balelo #STORAGEWARS @AETV," Dotson said.
Cast member Darrell Sheets Tweeted: "Mr Balelo may you now be removed from your demons R.I.P I will pray for your soul and loved ones #storagewars."