Tragic Details About The Cast Of Storage Wars

The following references suicide and domestic violence allegations. 

When "Storage Wars" debuted in 2010, something about the reality TV series resonated with viewers and made it a smash hit. Set in the surprisingly savage world of storage locker auctions, its competitive cast members tried to outbid — and outwit — each other. But upon winning a storage unit, the real work began: sifting through trash in search of treasure.

The reason the auctions exist is tragic in and of itself. Some of the lockers that are auctioned off were possibly being rented by people who had to abandon them because they fell on hard times financially. Death and long-term hospitalization are other reasons a renter's payments might cease. Mixed among the old vacuum cleaners, trash bags full of clothing, and broken toys are family photo albums and other items that were once meaningful to someone. In a Facebook Live video, cast member Brandi Passante said that she'd sometimes find diaries and letters that made her cry. Often, they would provide insight into the tragedies that led to the loss of the renters' possessions.

But the show doesn't focus on those sad stories. The original core cast of "Storage Wars" was composed of auctioneer Dan Dotson and his wife, Laura, along with a handful of bidders who were slapped with sobriquets that captured their bidding styles: "The Gambler" Darrell Sheets, "The Mogul" Dave Hester, "The Collector" Barry Weiss, "The Young Gun" Jarrod Schulz, and his partner Passante. Over the years, they've experienced quite a few tragedies of their own.

Darrell Sheets had two heart attacks

In March 2019, Darrell Sheets was rocking out at a Justin Timberlake concert when he began experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack. After his hospitalization, he kept his fans updated on what was going on with his health in a series of Instagram posts. "Least I made part of the show," he quipped. In his Story, Sheets said that he'd been feeling ill for months, and he later learned that he also had a lung infection.

Sheets initially described his heart attack as "mild," and he discovered that it possibly saved him from suffering a far worse fate. After undergoing surgery, "The Gambler" explained how it was a stroke of luck. "I had 2 stents and congestive heart failure, my artery was 95% blocked. I was a day or two from death, the name of this blockage is called the 'widow maker,'" he wrote. But while he was grateful to be alive, he expressed regret over not being more vigilant about his health, revealing that he was also diabetic.

In an April 2019 update, Sheets said that he'd actually suffered back-to-back heart attacks. However, he let his fans know that he was doing much better and was relieved that he wouldn't have to undergo another procedure to have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator or pacemaker inserted in his chest. A year later, he celebrated a big health milestone. "Happy anniversary to me for one year of survival, no it wasn't easy but I did it," he wrote.

Barry Weiss' scary motorcycle accident

Barry Weiss, a wealthy retiree who once ran a produce empire, was only interested in finding unique antiques in the lockers he scored on "Storage Wars." He also used the show as an excuse to show off his impressive collection of motorcycles and cars, many of which were rare classics or customized so that they were one-of-a-kind. In an A&E video feature about Weiss' passion for accumulating automobiles, his castmate Dave Hester said, "It's a hobby for him and he enjoys it, and I guess it's better for him to be doing that than to be sitting in the bar getting drunk."

But in April 2019, Weiss discovered that his hobby can be pretty dangerous. According to TMZ, he and a friend were cruising around on their motorcycles when the driver of a car allegedly ran into them while attempting to exit a parking lot. Weiss had to be rushed to the ICU, where it was discovered that he had sustained serious injuries to his femur and back. His hospital stay ended up lasting weeks as he recovered from multiple surgical procedures. In a June 2019 update, TMZ reported that Weiss was out of the hospital and had started physical rehabilitation to aid his recovery.

Weiss had quit "Storage Wars" years before his devastating accident, but he returned to the show in 2021. In true Weiss fashion, he made an entrance by pulling up in a 1939 Lincoln Zephyr.

Mark Balelo died by suicide

When Mark Balelo first popped up on "Storage Wars" in 2011, his swagger and flashy style earned him the nickname "Rico Suave" from Brandi Passante. The big spender helped shake things up by giving the old-timers a new competitor to contend with, and he seemed primed to become a fixture on the show. However, he ended up appearing in just a handful of episodes.

In 2012, Radar reported that Balelo had violated the terms of his probation stemming from a 2009 drug charge, which resulted in Balelo serving a 45-day jail sentence. He'd reportedly left his state of residence with a gun that he'd discovered among the contents of a storage unit. When Radar published its story, his girlfriend at the time, Elizabeth Metzidis, defended Balelo's character by telling the webloid, "I have a son who has autism and he's been very active raising money for that cause. At auctions, he'll donate a (storage) lot for the cause."

Days after Balelo was arrested on a methamphetamine charge in February 2013, he was found dead inside one of his vehicles, per the Los Angeles Times. His death was ruled a suicide. "We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and our thoughts are with Mark's family," an A&E spokesperson told TheWrap. Metzidis and Balelo had gotten engaged before he died, and auctioneer Dan Dotson wrote on Twitter, "Our hearts & prayers go out to Mark's small children & family as well as his devoted fiancé Elizabeth."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Brandi Passante and Jarrod Schulz split up

Brandi Passante and Jarrod Schulz's constant squabbling and snarking quickly made the couple fan favorites on "Storage Wars," and the parents of two even briefly starred in their own spinoff series, "Brandi & Jarrod: Married to the Job." But in a 2020 interview with "The Dad Diary," Passante revealed that she and Schulz had split up. While speaking about their kids, she said, "I have them all the time, 24/7. They're here with me. So, I have to navigate that." The exes later appeared on a 2021 episode of "Storage Wars" together at the same auction and broke the news of their breakup to viewers who hadn't yet heard about it.

While it appeared that the pair were going to try to keep things amicable for the sake of their place as stars of the series, in May 2021, TMZ reported that Schulz had been charged with misdemeanor domestic violence after allegedly shoving Passante during an altercation at a bar. Schulz denied touching Passante at all, and a month later, his attorney told TMZ that he was hoping to get the charge dismissed. As of this writing, there hasn't been an update on the status of the case.

Soon after Schulz was charged, A&E launched a separate investigation of the incident, and TMZ reported that he would be a persona non grata on the show until the investigation was concluded. Passante returned for Season 14 in 2022, while Schulz did not.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Dan Dotson had a double brain aneurysm

Fans of "Storage Wars" would recognize Dan Dotson's voice anywhere. The fast-talking auctioneer was one of the few people capable of getting the rest of the show's cast members to pipe down and stop sniping at each other whenever he started rattling off numbers.

It was Dan's voice that first alerted his wife, Laura Dotson, that something was seriously wrong late one night in June 2014. According to TMZ, they were in bed when he started spouting off questions that didn't make sense. The following morning, he passed out after getting out of the shower.

Dan was rushed to the hospital after Laura called 911, and she was filmed speaking to a doctor about his diagnosis: a subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by two aneurysms in different parts of his brain. In an episode of "Storage Wars," she tearfully recalled, "My son and I resuscitated him. He went down, and he turned green and blue. ... My son didn't panic, and we just got him down, and we gave him mouth-to-mouth." Dan had to undergo surgery and was initially given a devastating prognosis: the high end of his chance of survival was just 20%. Thankfully, the surgery was successful, and Laura told TMZ that Dan vowed that he was going to stop smoking, since the unhealthy behavior increased his chances of a return trip to the hospital. And as soon as he recovered, Dan was able to resume auctioneering on "Storage Wars."

Dave Hester's health scare

Whether it was his intention or not, Dave Hester quickly established himself as the villain of "Storage Wars." He seemed to have no interest in the camaraderie that the other cast members occasionally shared, and his obnoxious "Yuuup!" catchphrase — which he had printed on hats — often elicited groans from the other bidders. He also claimed that the show was fake, got fired, and sued A&E for wrongful termination in 2012. Details of the settlement were sealed, per Radar, and Hester later returned to the show.

While Hester wasn't always the easiest guy for fans to root for, they had to feel some sympathy for "The Mogul" when he shared details of a harrowing health scare with TMZ in 2019. According to Hester, he learned that he had sleep apnea and didn't know it when he awoke and found himself struggling to breathe. This turned out to be the beginning of a hemorrhagic stroke.

Hester's girlfriend was with him when he started experiencing the scary symptoms, and, thankfully, she was able to get him prompt medical care. The long-term health effects of a hemorrhagic stroke can be debilitating — according to Cleveland Clinic, they can cause permanent brain damage. But while Hester is lucky that he didn't end up in a coma, he still had a tough time recovering from his stroke. It left him unable to walk and perform other tasks, so he had to spend weeks in a physical rehabilitation facility.

Dan and Laura Dotson's son got shot

On "Storage Wars," auctioneer Dan Dotson and his wife Laura Dotson, known for her "Don't forget to pay the lady!" catchphrase, came off as a loving couple with an excellent professional relationship. While viewers didn't get to see much of their family life, they did witness the Dotsons rally behind their son, Garrett Dotson, for a sad reason in 2020.

According to Today's News-Herald, witnesses alleged that Garrett Dotson was outdoors in a residential area when a Lake Havasu City resident named Garrett Wilder stopped his car and yelled at Garrett Dotson. When Garrett Dotson walked toward the vehicle, Wilder shot him in the torso. Laura told TMZ that her son was rushed to a Las Vegas hospital via helicopter with a doctor who kept their hand pressed in his bullet wound. 

Months after undergoing surgery, Garrett Dotson told Today's News-Herald, "The bullet is still currently stuck in my L3 vertebrae. This forced me to wear a back brace for eight weeks. The healing process was unbearable and a constant struggle." He also revealed that he was struggling to pay medical bills that totaled nearly $300,000, but added, "Thankfully I've been able to fall back on my parents, and I have their help financially and emotionally." According to Today's News-Herald, Wilder was convicted of a drive-by shooting and received a 10.5-year prison sentence. The jury was reportedly hesitant to convict him because there was evidence that Garrett Dotson had kicked Wilder's vehicle.

The tragic death of Gunter Nezhoda

In March 2023, "Storage Wars" star Rene Nezhoda shared the sad news that his father, Gunter Nezhoha, had died at age 67. "My dad, six months ago, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He's been smoking for 30 years," Rene said in an Instagram video. "And last night he passed away in his sleep peacefully from complications from lung cancer." According to Rene, Gunter's lungs were in such bad shape that doctors had determined that there was no treatment that would help him. Still, his family had been holding out hope that he would get better.

Gunter was active in the entertainment biz before he began joining his son on "Storage Wars" sporadically. The Austria native scored roles in a handful of small films, including "Astro Zombies: M4 – Invaders from Cyberspace" and "The Haunting at Death Valley Junction." He was also an accomplished bass player who worked with artists including Pat Travers and Dokken member George Lynch.

"My dad was one of the guys on 'Storage Wars' that never really got any hate," said Rene. "People just loved being around him, including the crew ... Everybody loved working with my dad." Gunter even managed to win over Dave Hester and bring out the villain's softer side on "Storage Wars." Hester once promised not to bid on a locker if Gunter wanted it, and he joked to Rene, "Why don't you grow your hair long like your dad? You might become a nicer guy."