An inside look at the Chandler Halderson case
In July 2021, Bart and Krista Halderson were living a quiet life in Windsor, Wisconsin. They had a beautiful home and were the proud parents of two sons. Mitchell, 24, worked in tech and was engaged to be married. Chandler, 23, was attending Madison College studying for an IT degree and said he was looking forward to a job he had lined up at SpaceX.
A good friend
On July 2, Krista Halderson did not show up for work and her coworker and friend, Daniel Kroninger, began to worry. He tried getting in touch with Krista, but there was no response. Kroninger went over to the Halderson house and saw their son, Chandler.
Chandler, who lived at home, told Kroninger his parents had gone to their family cabin for the July 4th weekend.
Asking police for help
When Bart and Krista Halderson did not return home from the cabin after the July 4th weekend and were also not answering phone calls or text messages, Daniel Kroninger urged Chandler to go to the police for help. On Wednesday, July 7, 2021, Chandler reported his parents missing to the Dane County Sheriff's Office — telling detectives his mom and dad were picked up and driven to the cabin by a couple he didn't know.
"Have you seen my parents?"
As detectives began investigating Bart and Krista's mysterious disappearance, Chandler Halderson knocked on neighbors' doors asking if they'd seen or heard from his parents.
The family cabin
On July 8, 2021, Bart and Krista Halderson's oldest son, Mitchell, drove to the family cabin three hours north of Windsor to look for them. Langlade County Sheriff's deputies met him there and together they searched the property. It became clear, no one had been to the cabin in a long time. There were no signs of Bart and Krista Halderson.
Detectives interviewed friends and neighbors of Bart and Krista. They wanted to learn more about Chandler's whereabouts over the holiday weekend. Authorities started to suspect Chandler's story was not adding up, so they picked him up and brought him in for questioning.
The police interview lasted about two hours. Chandler told detectives his parents had gone to the cabin to take care of a plumbing emergency and that he helped them pack tools for the repairs.
A grisly discovery
While detectives were talking to Chandler, they received information that changed the tone of that interview. Turns out deputies got a tip from a farm owner saying she had seen Chandler walking from the wood line on her property a few days before he had reported his parents missing. When deputies searched that area, they discovered human remains — a male torso. Investigators immediately began testing to identify the remains.
At the same time, detectives grilled Chandler about his missing parents. But when he asked for a lawyer, the interview ended. Authorities arrested Chandler Halderson for providing false information about a missing person.
Two days later, the remains found on the farm were identified as Bart Halderson. Chandler was charged with his father's murder. He was also charged with dismembering and hiding a body.
Where is Krista?
But where was Krista? Authorities continued to search for her, not knowing if she was still alive. During a press conference Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett asked the community to stay alert.
A clue from Snapchat
A major break came from an unexpected source: Chandler's use of the social media app Snapchat.
Chandler's girlfriend, Cathryn "Cat" Mellender, gave investigators permission to download data from her phone.
Detectives say Mellender would keep tabs on her boyfriend using a Snapchat feature that allows users to track a friend's location in real time. On July 3, she spotted Chandler on Snapchat near the Wisconsin River. Mellender had taken a screenshot of the location and saved it to her phone.
When detectives searched the Snapchat location, they found human remains. The medical examiner later confirmed they were the remains of Krista Halderson. Chandler was charged with his mother's murder.
A familiar place
The Snapchat location where Krista's remains were found was a familiar place to Chandler.
Detectives say it was near Chandler's favorite swimming hole in a remote area with access to the Wisconsin river. This photo of Chandler was taken at that location about a year before he was charged with murdering his mother.
Bart and Krista Halderson
In September, 2021, Chandler Halderson pleaded not guilty to murdering, dismembering and hiding the bodies of his parents Bart and Krista.
The trial began in January, 2022. Dane County prosecutors told the jury Chandler murdered his parents because they had discovered he had been lying to them about his attendance at college and his job prospects.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Chandler had flunked out of college. They say he had made up a series of fake emails to make his parents believe he was still enrolled in school.
Buying a tarp
Prosecutors also presented evidence of Chandler buying a tarp and 20 pounds of ice.
Authorities determined the tarp Chandler purchased was similar to a tarp found in the garbage at the farm where his father's remains were discovered.
Authorities found cutting tools hidden inside a rusty oil drum at the farm where Bart Halderson's remains were found. A forensic analyst testified that blood on the tools matched Bart and Krista's DNA.
Prosecutors showed the jury a photo of broken glass from the Halderson's fireplace. They also showed a video from a neighbor's security camera that captured a flickering light coming from a window at the Halderson home. Prosecutors say it was the same day they believe Bart and Krista were killed.
A forensic expert testified at trial that more than 200 human bone fragments were found in the fireplace.
A forensic expert testified that there appeared to be blood in the basement of the Halderson home. The expert also told the jury there appeared to be evidence of a cleanup. In this photo the floor looks clean, but in the dark, blue light reveals traces of blood.
Gun found in barn
A gun was found hidden in a barn at the farm where Bart Halderson's remains were found. Authorities believe this weapon was used to kill Bart. The medical examiner was not able to determine how Krista Halderson was killed.
A jury decides
The jury deliberated for two hours. Chandler Halderson was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In April 2023, two of Chandler Halderson's convictions related to hiding his parents' remains were vacated on procedural grounds. Halderson continues to serve a life sentence with no possibility of parole for the murder and dismemberment of his parents.