A Dane County jury found Chandler Halderson guilty Thursday of the murder and dismemberment of his parents last summer.
After deliberating just over two hours, the jury found 23-year-old Halderson guilty of killing, cutting up and hiding the remains of Bart and Krista Halderson, as well as lying to law enforcement when he initially claimed his parents were missing after they left the Windsor house the family shared for a Fourth of July weekend trip in northern Wisconsin and never returned.
Chandler showed no apparent reaction when the verdicts were read, convicting him of two counts each of first-degree intentional homicide, mutilating a corpse, hiding a corpse and falsifying information about a missing person.
A first-degree intentional homicide conviction carries a mandatory life sentence. Attorneys will be able to argue whether Chandler can ever be eligible for parole at a sentencing hearing scheduled in March.
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“I hope that it brings some satisfaction,” Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, who did not prosecute the case, told reporters after the verdicts. “We know that we cannot bring Bart and Krista back, but this is the first step to hopefully some finality.”
After prosecutors spent a week and a half arguing the case, which has drawn national media attention, the defense rested Thursday morning without calling any witnesses or Chandler testifying.
In a closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Andrea Raymond walked jurors through events from July 1, when Chandler is said to have killed Bart, 50, and Krista, 53, through his arrest on July 8.
She reminded jurors of evidence and testimony seen throughout the trial, such as human bone fragments found in the family’s fireplace, cutting tools with DNA matching Bart and Krista’s, phone location data showing Chandler near where his parents’ remains were later found, and neighbors’ security cameras capturing what vehicles came and went from the house during that time.
“We know that Bart and Krista went into that home and never came out, at least as whole people,” Raymond said.
She compared solving a criminal case to putting together a puzzle, contending Chandler “had eight days to spread pieces of that puzzle all over Wisconsin, at least southern Wisconsin.”
“They were normal folks just trying to live a normal life. They don’t even get to be buried next to each other,” Raymond said. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m asking that you give justice to Krista and Bart Halderson and that you treat them with the dignity and respect that their own son hasn’t given them.”
Defense attorney Crystal Vera urged the jurors to consider what they don’t know with regard to the two first-degree intentional homicide charges, but she seemingly conceded Chandler was guilty of other charges.
“Do you know if it was an awful accident, do you know if it was intentional, do you know if there was someone else involved?” Vera asked the jurors. “You don’t, and that’s a problem.”
She admitted Chandler is a liar and even “goes to extreme lengths, if you will, to keep those lies going or to perhaps cover up those lies.”
But Vera argued the prosecution’s focus on Chandler’s lies about attending Madison Area Technical College, working for American Family Insurance or being part of a scuba dive team for Madison police — regardless of how much of the truth was known to his parents — was more about tainting his credibility if he testified rather than a reasonable motive.
“You were never told that they were going to kick him out of the house. You were never told that they were going to disown him. You were never told anything about why it matters,” Vera said. “If this is going to be motive, if this is the reason you’re intentionally killing someone, it better matter.”
In a rebuttal, Deputy District Attorney William Brown said: “He had two options: Own up to his lies, stand up and finally tell the truth for once. Or like a coward, shoot your father in the back, and that’s exactly what happened.”
The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office was unable to determine the precise cause of death for Krista, whose only remains found were her legs. Ozanne said Chandler’s motive may never become clear.
“The one thing that our traditional criminal justice system never really may get to is the why,” he said. “It may not. We cannot reach into somebody and figure out the why unless they’re willing to somehow give that information to us. We may never know.”
Chandler reported his parents missing to the Dane County Sheriff’s Office on July 7, claiming they left for a trip to the family cabin in Langlade County with an unknown couple and hadn’t returned. Law enforcement quickly saw that story fall apart and arrested Chandler the following day.
In reality, prosecutors say, Chandler killed them after his father began catching on to his claims of attending MATC, and he spent the following days first trying to burn Bart and Krista in the fireplace before disposing of body parts at various locations.
Hours before Chandler’s arrest, investigators discovered Bart’s gunshot torso in a rural Cottage Grove property. It wasn’t until July 14 — nearly two weeks after the murders were believed to have happened — that Krista’s remains were found on state land in northwestern Dane County.
Given the scope of the investigation, which required searching multiple locations and involved several agencies, Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett said it came down to “time and resources” to put together the case, which he called “historical.”
He credited the “professionalism and outstanding work” of the Sheriff’s Office detectives, deputies and staff in the first high-profile murder of Barrett’s tenure.
Despite a weeklong pause in the trial because Chandler tested positive for COVID-19 in the Dane County Jail, it concluded more than a week earlier than originally scheduled.
In this Series
The Chandler Halderson case: Read the original reports
Authorities seeking help finding Windsor couple missing since July 1
Son of missing Windsor couple arrested for providing false information, Sheriff's Office says
Dane County Sheriff: Human remains found in investigation of missing Windsor couple
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