Named as Person of Interest in Erik Berger Homicide

Daniel Balto was a mobile app creator from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who has been named as the person of interest in the shooting death of Erik Berger, a well-known car collector who was found deceased in a likely murder-suicide on the floor of an AutoPlex garage in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

CBS News identified Berger as the 33-year-old victim in the April 12 homicide, describing him as a “a pillar of the Twin Cities car community.” The person of interest is believed to have died later of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Minneapolis, Fox9 reported.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune named the person of interest as Daniel S. Balto, 35. The person of interest has not been named by authorities but knew Berger, according to CBS.

Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud announced the “death investigation” in the city of Chanhassen in an April 13 news release.

According to CBS News, Berger was killed “inside the Chanhassen AutoPlex last week, a private garage complex for collectors to store and showcase cars.” TJ Beadle, Berger’s friend, told CBS: “I was not aware of any conflict, no. That’s why it was all the more shocking. (Erik) was a staple, very well-known, at the Chanhassen Autoplex. His passion was being around his vehicles.”

The website for the Autoplex describes it as, “the first-of-its-kind private garage condo community located in Chanhassen, Minnesota. April through September, we open to the public and host events, including the Cars & Caves car show and Wednesday, Summer Nights car shows.”

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Daniel Balto Left ‘a Very Ominous Message’ for a Neighbor, Reports Say

Facebook/Daniel BaltoDaniel Balto.

A neighbor told the Star-Tribune that he received a text message from Balto that he considers “ominous.”

“He texted me that night, and I didn’t see it until the next morning,” Robert Malcomson said to the Star-Tribune. “… It was a very ominous message.”

He told the newspaper that Balto asked him to care for Balto’s cats. Malcomson told the newspaper that Balto was having both relationship and financial problems and had discussed “significant relationship issues (concerning) infidelity and whether the relationship would survive. … The humiliation and despair just went over the top for him.”

He told the Star-Tribune that Balto had a company called Carmmunity, Inc., a “mobile app that offers car enthusiasts around the world a way to network,” but it was having financial issues.

2. Daniel Balto Wrote That He Was Trying to ‘Double Down’ on His App for Car Collectors

Facebook (Daniel Balto)Daniel Balto

On his Facebook page, Balto described himself as “Chief marketing officer (CMO) at Cars and Coffee” and a “Board Member at Twin Cities Pet Rescue Co-Founder/CEO at Carmmunity.”

He wrote that he was a “Former Founder at Minnesota Car Enthusiast Club – MNCEC” who “Studied at University of Minnesota Medical School” and
“Went to Henry Sibley Senior High School.”

He wrote that he “Studied Biomedical engineering at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus” and lived in Minneapolis.

In February, Balto wrote on Facebook,

So yeah, every year I double down on Carmmunity and try something new. Yes, this is the successor to the Minneapolis Mile. This year is 6 major shows plus 2 road rallies. Most of you probably think I’m crazy, and frankly I don’t disagree. No rational human would ever want to take this on and this year like most others is a leap of faith. But I’m going to thank my current team, and my team that has yet to form, because I can’t do it alone, no matter how hard I try. 😅

Balto mostly wrote about cars on his page.

3. Daniel Balto Left a Final YouTube Video That Talked About Depression & Relationship Problems, Say Those Who Watched It

A man wrote on Balto’s Facebook page, “went to middle and HS with Dan. I’m shocked and he’s the last person I’d ever think to do something this horrific.”

Another man wrote that he watched Balto’s final, and now deleted YouTube video. “He just talked about the car community and what it has done to him and about the app. People turned on him and he gave so much support to everyone else but he didn’t feel the same. He was depressed and couldn’t keep going on. And then talked about the infidelity in his relationship. He didn’t mention Erik. It was kinda contradictive to the outpouring support he got after,” he wrote on Balto’s Facebook page.

A woman wrote on the sheriff’s Facebook thread, “This hits hard in the car community. Rest in peace and healing vibrations.” Another wrote, “Both were a part of the car community. Mental Health and a girl.” And a third person wrote that the person of interest had posted a video that shed light on motivations but it was taken down.

4. Sheriff’s Officials Say Erik Berger Was Discovered ‘Lying on the Floor in the Garage Area’ by His Parents

The sheriff wrote that, around 3:52 p.m. on April 12, the office received a 911 call “for an unknown medical on the 8100 block of Audubon Road in the City of Chanhassen, MN.”

Deputies, the fire department, and ambulance services arrived on-scene “and found an adult male (33 years-of-age) from St. Paul, MN, lying on the floor in the garage area.”

The evidence “suggests a violent assault occurred. Deputies learned the victim’s parents had found their son lying on the floor in the garage. They immediately called 91 and started CPR.”

According to the sheriff’s release, the victim was pronounced dead at the scene and his body was taken to the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in the City of Anoka, Minnesota, for an autopsy to determine the cause and the manner of death. However, Fox 9 reported that Berger suffered both gunshot and knife wounds, and he died of homicide, citing the sheriff.

“If you knew Erik Berger, there’s only one way you can remember him. And it’s just the nicest, most genuine, hard-working, intelligent person,” Nick Johannes told KSTP.

5. The Person of Interest Was Later Located Deceased in a Minneapolis Residence, Authorities Say

A person of interest “was identified and later located deceased at a residence in Minneapolis, MN,” the sheriff wrote. “The person of interest’s name is being withheld until proper identification and notifications can be made by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office.”

Authorities wrote that the death “appears to be an isolated incident and there is no evidence to suggest further danger to the public.” The death was still under investigation.

Fox9 reported that Berger and the person of interest had a “domestic relationship,” but was not more specific.

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