Prison inmate found dead

August 15, 1997

From staff and wire reports

MOUNT OLIVE, W.Va. - A man serving life in prison for the murders of two people - one a Hagerstown man - died in his cell Tuesday at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in West Virginia, a prison official said.

Michael Balesi, 47, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was alive at breakfast, but was found dead at the noon count on Tuesday, said Mike Coleman, associate warden at Mt. Olive.

Balesi suffered from diabetes and kidney failure. The initial cause of death was listed as renal failure.

Balesi's body was sent to the state medical examiner's office for an autopsy, Coleman said.

A decorated Vietnam veteran, Balesi was an uncooperative patient, refusing to take care of his health by smoking cigarettes and not following the diet his doctors gave him, Coleman said.


Balesi would not take his prescribed medicine regularly and was caught several times taking illegal drugs, Coleman said.

``We believe it hastened his own death,'' Coleman said.

Balesi, born in Hamilton, Ohio, was serving his sentence with no chance for parole for two murders in the Martinsburg area.

Balesi was convicted in August 1996 in the deaths of Wayne Steven Mathews, 38, of Martinsburg, and Arnold W. Churchey, 35, of Hagerstown.

The two men were shot to death within about two hours of each other on April 29, 1995, according to police.

Churchey was shot moments after Balesi encountered him at a Falling Waters repair shop. Balesi then drove to a motorcycle shop in Martinsburg and shot Mathews up to 17 times.

Balesi used an insanity defense during his trial. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and received treatment at the Veterans Administration Center.

Balesi was on disability for the disorder when he committed the murders.

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