It always surprises me when I hear about cases like this one, or honestly any cases these days, of how the perpetrators could believe that they could get away with murder knowing how much technology surrounds us, and keeps track of our every moment. Yet, here we are, with another case of "I'm pretty sure I can get away with this."
This case is a frightening reminder just how sensitive parenting is - one lean too far in one direction (neglect) or the other (over-attentive), and the results in a child's psyche can be catastrophic.
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Transcribed Episode / S3 EP32: Web of Lies: Chandler Halderson
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For most parents, we want what’s best for our children. We want them to grow up to be strong, independent adults who are able to function and make smart decisions in this crazy unpredictable world. We try to be an important part of our children’s lives and upbringing, but sometimes it can go too far. The term “helicopter parent”, is a term used to describe parents who pay extreme attention to their children’s activities and schoolwork in an effort to help them succeed in life, and to protect them from the pain of failure and disappointment.
This may seem like a good thing, but this type of parenting has its consequences. It can cause low self esteem, low confidence, depression and cause the child to grow up doubting their own abilities. Some can also develop entitlement issues where they believe they deserve certain privileges because they usually always get what they want. Some end up acting out when their parents try to exert too much control over their lives and others grow up with poor coping skills when things don’t go their way.
In this episode I’ll be talking about a case where things didn’t go the way that Chandler Halderson of Wisconsin wanted them to, and his parents, horrifically, paid the price.
Bart and Krista Halderson lived in the village of Windsor, Wisconsin. Windsor lies about 15 miles north of Madison Wisconsin, has the Great Lakes just north and east, and has a population of roughly 9000 people.
There’s not a whole lot to do in the village of Windsor, so most people travel to ans visit the many lakes surrounding the area.
Bart and Krista Halderson both grew up in Wisconsin and both attended and graduated with bachelors degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They were married on July 30, 1994 and had their first son in 1997 named Mitchell, and their second son Chandler 18 months later. At 50, Bart was a certified accountant for BDO, USA - a global accounting network - and 53 year old Krista was initially a stay at home mom for her two boys, but when they were old enough she went back to work as an administrative assistant for Zimbrick Automotive.
Bart and Krista enjoyed spending time with their two boys, raising their two dogs, Izzy and Rizzo, and hanging out with friends. They enjoyed going to football games and concerts and actively supported several community organizations, such as the Kiwanis, and Boy Scouts of America. Bart was an avid golfer and thrived on doing home remodeling and Krista loved her crafts, and enjoyed cooking and interior decorating. They were devoted parents and Krista dotted heavily on her two boys.
The couple raised their boys in a middle class home in the Dane County Wisconsin area. They had a vacation home, a rural, rustic log cabin near Sawyer Lake - about a 3 hour drive north from Windsor - that they would visit about 3 to 4 times per year.
By 2021 their oldest son Mitchell, who was now 24, had moved out of the house and was working as a technical services rep in Madison Wisconsin and was engaged to his fiance Kaitlin.
23-year-old Chandler still lived at home and was taking online courses with Madison Area Technical College in an effort to obtain a degree in Removal Research Engineering. His “About” page on Linked in describes his career achievements: The majority of my experience consists of lifeguarding and technology, but it doesn't stop there. I have a strong understanding of solar panels and the installation process that goes with them. I also have experience in teaching and leadership from when I was a teacher's assistant for an installation course at a local college.”
His education shows he has a Certification in Renewable Energy and he’d achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, which is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Scouts BSA program of the Boy Scouts of America. Chandler also had a steady girlfriend, Cathryn Mellender.
Aside from attending tech college, Chandler also worked remotely - at home - for American Family insurance where he answered questions on a message board, he also volunteered part-time as a scuba diver for a rescue team with the local Madison Police diving squad, and he was planning on moving to Florida to go and work for Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, upon his graduation. Even though Chandler worked at the insurance company, his parents didn’t require that he pay rent while he was living at home.
It seemed that both boys were doing well and moving forward in their chosen careers.
When Mitchell had left the home, he and his brother wouldn’t hang out much, but would occasionally play video games online together. They preferred playing first-person shooter games, and Chandler had a particular weapon that he would always choose for the games - a SKS gun - which is a semi-automatic rifle designed by Soviet small arms designer Sergei Gavrilovich.
In June of 2021 Mitchell had gotten ill and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. As sort of a get-well gift, Chandler gave his brother a bullet with the words “get well soon” written on it. That’s not odd at all right?
Shortly after Mitchell was diagnosed, Chander fell on or near the staircase in his home, causing him to have a concussion. As a result of this “fall” he wore a neck brace and claimed to have numbness and be overly tired and told his parents that he couldn't use his legs and had possible spinal damage. But according to Mitchell, he never noticed any issues with Chandler walking following that incident.
On July 7th, 2021 at 11:25 in the morning, Chandler walked into the Dane County Sheriff’s office and said that he wanted to report his parents missing.
He told authorities that he last saw his parents on Friday July 2nd. He claimed he helped his parents pack for an emergency trip up to their cabin in White Lake Wisconsin where they wanted to go to complete some repairs at the property after a storm had hit the area and for the fourth of july weekend. They were supposed to return home the following Monday or Tuesday.
He told them that his parents were picked up by friends - he wasn’t sure who they were - and that they’d already left their house by the time he woke up at around 6:15am that Friday. He’d last heard from his mother on July 4, when she texted him, but that was the only communication he had with his parents since they left for their trip. He wanted to report them missing because they hadn’t returned home yet and all his calls were going to their voicemails.
Deputy John Nelson took the report, and noted that Chandler seemed “lethargic and tired as he described not seeing his parents for a week” and that he was slow to respond to some questions.
After Nelson took down the information and filed the missing person’s report, deputies went to the Halderson home to check in and around the house.
Deputy Joshua Seeley drove over to Halderson's residence and with Chandler's permission entered the home. He immediately observed that pieces of the flooring had been removed and saw what appeared to be outlines of a half wall immediately next to the front door which were no longer there. Seeley asked if there were any firearms in the house, and Chandler said there wasn’t, but that there was a hunting rifle at his parents’ cabin.
That evening Detectives Sabrina Sims and Brian Shunk went back over to the Halderson home and interviewed Chandler to obtain more information on the events surrounding the disappearance of his parents. He told the detectives details about what had occurred over the past few days, including that he had a girlfriend who had a farm in the Cottage Grove area. They also looked through Chandler’s phone and noticed that he had received several calls from his girlfriends’ mothers’s partner Cresent L'sai.
Chandler then went through the timeline of what had happened up until his parents went missing. He said that he’d helped his parents pack up tools to take up to the cabin with them such as a pipe wrench, a hatchet and gas cans for the chainsaw. There’d been a recent storm and a water pump and a fire pit had possibly been damaged so they wanted to drive up there to fix them.
He said he woke up at around 6:15am on Friday July 2nd, and noticed his parents had left and all of the items he’d helped pack for them were gone as well. They’d told him that friends were going to be picking them up to go to the cabin with them, but he wasn’t sure who the friends were.
He said the last time he heard from his mother was on July 4th via text at around 11am - when she texted him saying that they were going to White Lake for a parade and they’d be home either Monday night or Tuesday morning. Since there wasn’t cell phone service at the cabin, it wasn’t strange that his parents hadn’t called him.
Deputies noted that both Bart’s Subaru Outback and Krista’s Volkswagen wagon were still parked at the home.
On the kitchen counter inside the home, there was a note that Chandler said his mother had left for him saying: “I hope you’re doing okay, and if you need anything contact - and the note listed a coworker and friend with the initials “PS”
When deputies contacted the person referenced on the note, she said it was unusual for Krista not to show up for work. she hadn’t requested the time off, and they knew that she was highly dedicated to her job and was very responsible and would have definitely called into work if she couldn't make it in, but she hadn’t shown up for work Friday morning.
Deputes left the Halderson home and began to contact additional coworkers. A family friend and coworker had gone over to the Halderson home at around 4:30pm on Friday the 2nd to see if everything was ok because Krista hadn’t shown for work. When she arrived, she looked through the window of the front door and could see that a coffee table was on its side. She knocked and could then see a hand poke out of a curtain in a lower story window signaling to go around to the side door. When she went to the side door, Chandler opened the door, and it appeared he’d just showered and had a towel around his waist. He told the coworker that his parents had been picked up by another couple, sometime around 5am to head to their cabin at White Lake. The coworker noticed that Chandler had gauze or a bandage on one of his feet - so she asked what had happened. He said that he’d thrown a ball or was playing with the dogs and had broken the fireplace door. He then said something about there being “blood everywhere inside the house” as a result of the cut.
Detectives interviewed the Haldersons’ neighbor who had invited Chandler over for dinner the night that he reported his parents missing. He told them the same story - that someone had picked up his parents and they’d left for their cabin. He also said that his father took a large amount of cash with him and that they also took quite a bit of alcohol with them to the cabin. According to the neighbor, that was all out of character for the Halderson’s. Bart and Krista would always drive their own cars, even when taking guests to their cabin because they knew how to get there. She also said Bart was a cheapskate and to her knowledge, didn’t keep large amounts of cash in the house. She also it was highly out of character for Krista not to contact her sons when she was gone - she was a very doting mother and would call her sons at least once per day if not more often.
During this time, Mitchell Halderson had been contacted by his mothers best friend, Jane Hilgendorf, and she told him that his parents had gone up to their cabin, but didn’t mention anything about them being reported missing. Then Chandler texted his brother to tell him that his parents hadn’t returned from the cabin. Mitchell though it was unusual for his parents to go up to their cabin on the 4th of July weekend without telling him- but he didn’t really become concerned until his brother told him that they hadn’t returned and he hadn’t heard from them.
When he couldn’t get in touch with his parents himself, he contacted the Sheriff’s office and agreed to meet them at his parents cabin to see if they were there. He made the drive out to the cabin and searched the area with the sheriff’s department. When they got to the cabin, it was locked, and when they broke in to get inside, they found signs that no one had been there.
Neighbors around the cabin said that they hadn’t seen anyone come by in a while. Mitchell had also called his parents' friends, but none of them said they went to pick them up to head to the cabin.
When detectives contacted Chandler’s girlfriend, Cathryn Mellender she explained that she was with Chandler several times between July 1st through July 8th.
Detectives also spoke with Cathryn’s mother Dulce and her partner Cresent. Cresent told authorities that Chandler had visited their property - without Cathryn - just a few days prior. Cresent said that Chandler came to their property alone at around 5:30pm on July 5th in his father’s Subaru. He told her that he wasn’t doing well, that he was having problems reading words and numbers and asked if he could swim in their pool - she said of course. He drove towards the pool and was gone for about 1 - 1.5 hours. Cresent drove out to a shed on the south side of their property and noticed the Subaru parked next to it with it’s hatchback door open. She then saw Chandler walking near the grass and wood line just south of the shed, but wasn’t sure what he was doing. Shortly afterwards, she saw him near the pool, appearing to be washing himself off.
She told the detectives that Chandler had been out to their property on another occassion and the topic of target shooting had come up. She offered for him to come out to the property anytime to join in the fun in the future. He told her that he had a foreign military style rifle that had a magazine like an AK, that he could bring to use to do target shooting. She explained to him that the gun was too big of a gun to shoot on her property for that specific target area.
She also mentioned one last thing to the detectives: she’d noticed that vultures had been circling the woods on her property and that was unusual.
Detective Brent Baverstock, who was interviewing Cresent, then went down to the shed area to have a look. When walking close to the wood line where she said she saw Chandler, he noticed a slight “mound” loosely covered in foliage, sticks and leaves. He stepped closer to get a better look and stood there for a minute to process what he was seeing. Within the foliage was a mutilated and dismembered human torso. The torso belonged to a white male and was clothed in gray cargo-type pants, a black belt, a nylon rope was tied around the waist, and the body had no shirt on.
Deputies then made their way over to where the Subaru had been seen parked near the shed, and the detectives came upon a large rust colored metal oil drum. The tank had an opening in the side of it, and inside they could see a pair of pruning shears, a saw blade and a pair of bolt cutters. They looked closer at the saw blade and it appeared to have a slimy appearance with what they thought could be fatty tissue.
Also found on the property was a grocery bag that contained cleaning materials in a garbage can and when detectives opened it, there was a strong odor of rubbing alcohol and a “rancid, putrid smell.” There was a red substance on the bag that was later tested and confirmed to be human blood.
In a subsequent search, someone close to the Mellender family found a rifle hidden in a barn on her property which detectives retrieved as evidence.
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On July 8th, the same day detectives found the remains on the Cottage Grove property, Chandler spoke with several news outlets about his parents disappearance.
[Field Reporter / Chandler Halderson Segment]
All I would really want to ask you is if there’s any information that you feel like that would be worthwhile to share
My last message that I got from there they were going to White Lake for the 4th of July, there’s some festivities that go around there, better drink prices at the bars, stuff like that. Yeah, White Lake Wisconsin.
Their plan to my knowledge they’re going to Langlade County to their cabin. Along the way they could’ve stopped many places I wouldn’t know all of them. It’s about 3 hours north of Madison, or Dane County.
They left then a week ago today on the 1st?
So that would've been the 2nd of July when they left?
And that’s the last you heard from them. And was it yesterday that you called the sheriff’s office, or someone from your family called the sheriff's office just to…
I need to go back on that, I actually got a text from them on Sunday telling me they’re going to White Lake. I don’t know when the text was sent because of reception issues that they would have and they usually turn their phone off because of pay for roaming. It could’ve been whenever they sent that message that they made it safely and they’re going to White Lake for the 4th.
I heard a lot of the comments people were concerned or wanted clarification about the vehicle because the reports from the sheriffs' office saying they didn’t have a car or there wasn’t a car with them.
They were picked up by their friends who I never got the name of, and I assumed it was someone I was aware of, like the close neighbors of theirs up the street or their best friends down on the east side. That’s what I assumed I never asked any further into it. And they all got picked up and they all went up there by like another couple.
Picked up here?
Yeah, here at my house.
That evening, Chandler was brought into the Sheriff’s station for another interview to ask him about the injury on his foot and to obtain more details from him- he explained he was downstairs when he threw a ball to his dog and accidentally broke some glass and that’s how he injured it and how blood could’ve end ed up in various locations around the house:
[Detective Interview with Chandler Halderson]
As far as the blood on your foot, how did you clean that up? So we were talking, you had blood on…
Swiffer wet jet.
Did you use anything else?
Hydrogen peroxide for the tiles and the hard floors. just the big (inaudible) needed a lit bit hydrogen peroxide.
Did that seem to help get rid of the blood?
It hurt my foot but it didn’t really help it kind of just made a mess.
Tiles, are we talking kitchen because downstairs is just like cement...
Well when I had some blood on the basement i used peroxide
Tiles in the kitchen?
Yeah peroxide it wasn’t as much they were like this sized pools in the kitchen. I was pinching it pretty dang hard which was also cutting deeper because i had another might still (inaudible) piece of glass
Was that the biggest pool that you saw..
This was downstairs this was kind of on the stone, close to the glass and then there was one right at the base kind of where the chairs I put like a good 2-3 inch diameter
And did you clean up at all when it actually happened?
No my dad was furious, he did stuff
To clean it?
Yeah i don’t know what he did, but he sent me to my room upstairs, he did whatever he did, but it was still on the floor when he was done.
Detectives also pressured him to tell them the truth about his parents, but Chandler didn’t bite:
[Detective Interview with Chandler Halderson]
I think it’s time we start talking about what happened to your parents, like the truthful version.
Okay, so we have like 20 pages of writing and I’m going to start with a clean white piece of paper for you to start telling the truth.
Listen to me, this is the only chance you’ll have to tell us the truth.
Listen, listen. I can’t tell you what we know, but we know you’re not telling us the truth. We know your parents are no longer with us, and we know the reason why. Okay you need to tell the truth.
Listen, listen. You need to tell the truth about what happened and just tell us why it happened. If something happened and you were defending yourself or if you just got fed up with stuff you need to tell us the truth. Okay this is your chance to tell us why, okay I’m not BS’ing you okay.
The additional questioning obviously threw up a red flag for Chandler, because towards the end of that interview he asked for an attorney, which ended the interview. Detective William Hendrickson then put Chandler under arrest and he was taken into custody for providing false information on a missing person’s case.
When the detective was walking him towards the booking room, he recalled Chandler saying something about wanting to “go back up and tell me everything.” Hendrickson explained that he couldn’t do that as he had invoked his right to an attorney. Chandler AGAIN said “What if I want to tell you everything with an attorney there to guide me?” The detective explained he could do that at a later time but not now because he’d invoked an attorney.
During booking Chandler asked the detective something to the effect of “what was different?” in comparison to when he was interviewed the day prior and now when they were arresting him. Hendrickson told him that they’d “found something” and Chandler instantly became wide eyed and made a comment to the effect of “you don’t know the whole story.”
When asked if Chandler felt suicidal, his response to the question was that he “didn’t feel bad about what I did.”
They took photos of Chandler’s body and collected DNA samples. When they lifted his shirt, he had purple and yellow bruising on the back side of one of his upper arms, and also to his lower legs and knee areas. There were also scratches on the lower part of both legs.
Detective Elizabeth Allen interviewed Chandler's girlfriend Cathryn and she said that on July 2nd, he’d asked her to get something for a wound because he’d broken the glass on the fireplace and injured his foot. She grabbed some hydrogen peroxide and a Swiffer from her mom’s house.
When asked if Chandler had any firearms, she said that his friend had gifted him one, that it was long and black, like shotgun sized, and that it looked like an army gun. She also mentioned that Chandler used to be on the shooting team in college.
The friend who had gifted the gun to Chandler had visited him on June 12 - June 13th and had left a SKS Norinco rifle with him. It was black and had a custom built 18-20 inch barrel and he’d left 480 rounds of ammunition with Chandler, as well as two 20-round magazines, which Chandler loaded in front of him. Neither Chandler nor his friend told Bart or Krista about the firearm. During a search of the home, a casing was located which matched the ammunition that had been given to Chandler by his friend.
On July 10th, detectives got a call from a woman who claimed that on July 3rd, she witnessed a man matching Chandler’s description in the area of the DNR property near Sauk City - which is about 24 miles west of the Halderson home. The man was carrying a backpack and walking away from the Wisconsin River. The woman said the man’s behavior was strange, because he walked away from his vehicle towards the highway, then when he approached the highway he turned around and went back to his car.
Detectives drove out to the location three days later to search the area the woman described. About 200 yards from the highway they came upon a human leg. The leg had been severed near the thigh area but was intact below the thigh all the way down to the foot. Next to the leg was another chunk of about 8 inches of rotted human flesh, believed to be part of a thigh. In the same area, there was also a severed left foot. About 10-15 feet from where the leg was located, another football or slightly larger than football sized body part was found - it looked like bone was protruding from one end of the object, which appeared to be a human severed body part.
The autopsy on the remains found at the Melon-DER property was finally completed and they were identified as belonging to Bart Halderson. Due to the condition of the remains, the exact date of his death couldn’t be determined but it was estimated between July 1 - July 8th. The cause of death was determined to be from a gunshot wound or gunshot wounds - or more technically: homicidal violence including firearm injury. There appeared to be an exit wound under his right ribcage and there were firearm injuries to the abdomen and back, as well as the neck area.
On July 15th, Chandler was formally charged in the murder of his father, hiding a corpse, mutilating a corpse, and providing false information on a missing person's case. Krista Halderson was still officially missing.
Investigators continued to search various properties and employed K9’s and dive teams to search a waste management landfill and a pond behind the Halderson’s home. Additional human remains were found at the Halderson property on July 27th. The landfill and the pond turned up no additional evidence.
On July 28th, now three weeks after Bart and Krista went missing, detectives performed another search of the Halderson residence. In the garage they found a pair of shoes under a shelving unit. Inside one of the shoes was a foil wrapped item - and inside was a paper towel wrapped around something. Wrapped inside were the drivers licenses for Bart and Krista, along with a black cell phone and a white cell phone.
When the cell phone records for Bart and Krista were pulled, investigators found that Chandler had sent two texts to Krista on July 4th at 11:00am. The cell tower used on Chandler's phone was from the 500 block of Linde Street - right down the street from his parents' home. When Krista sent a response text to Chandler’s phone on the 4th, the device utilized another tower in the same exact area. So essentially the two phones were at the same exact location when they were sending texts to each other.
Krista’s text to Chander had read: "Made it safely, can't get anything through, and yes it's packed. Going to White Lake today for the parade and will be home Monday night/Tuesday early. Love you lots!!" There was just a tiny glitch in that text - the White Lake Independence Day Celebration and parade was held on Saturday, July 3, 2021, not SUNDAY the 4th, the day of her text message.
Luminol was used in the home to detect blood in the house. The basement gave a very strong result to the luminol, with even footwear impressions in blood becoming apparent. Additional blood was also found on the laundry room floor, a bathroom’s floorboards, and on a vacuum cleaner.
Human blood was also found in the drain of a freezer in the basement.
The home had at least three Google mini devices and all - strangely - been unplugged, possibly to avoid picking up and recording audio.
Investigators found vape mouth pieces hidden behind the basement’s insulation, so they dug further in the insulation and found firearm magazines.
They also found black rope that was the same type as the one found wrapped around a portion of Bart’s remains found in Cottage Grove, and bone fragments were found in the fireplace.
After the human remains were found near Sauk City, it took several weeks to identify them, but DNA was able to be retrieved from the remains and on July 30th, the Dane County Medical Examiner and Wisconsin State Crime Lab confirmed that they belonged to Krista Halderson.
An entire month later, Chandler was charged with his mother’s death.
A complaint that was filed indicated that on the morning of July 8th, prior to detectives locating his father’s remains at Cottage Grove and before his mother’s remains had been found, he’d made six Google searches back-to-back that referenced:
"Body found Wisconsin."
'Woman's body found in Wisconsin."
'Wisconsin dismembered body found."
"Dead body found in Wisconsin."
"Body found in Milwaukee River 2021."
….and "Bart and Krista."
Chandler plead not guilty to the charges and his trial began on January 4th and would last 16 days.
Prosecutor Andrea Raymond described Chandler’s upbringing, saying that he had two parents who not only supported him and doted on him, but enabled him. Chandler’s maternal grandparents died when he was a child, the only real loss he’d experienced. She said because Chandler 'grew up with a life of privilege' it made it difficult to explain his crimes.
They argued that the reason Chandler murdered his parents was because his father discovered his web of l