In early 2021, Wisconsin man Chandler “Chaz” Michael Halderson, 23, appeared to be a pretty impressive guy, according to opening statements in his murder trial. He told family he was a college student about to graduate, he worked at an insurance company, he helped police as a scuba driver for a rescue team, and he just got hired to work for SpaceX, prosecutor William Brown told jurors on Tuesday.
It turned out to be an elaborate web of lies, the state said. This all fell apart after the defendant’s father Bart Halderson, 50, found out he was not even going to school, the prosecutor said. “Chaz” shot his dad in the back, murdered his mother Krista Halderson, 53, when she returned home, and discarded their dismembered body parts throughout southern Wisconsin, Brown said. Then he reported them missing, telling a story about them going hours up north to their cabin, the prosecutor said.
Brown tells jurors Halderson planned to dismember his parents and burn their remains. The photo shows the Halderson family fireplace, where the glass was broken. Brown also says investigators found a piece of a human skull inside the fireplace.#ChandlerHalderson @LawCrimeNetwork pic.twitter.com/63JbqHAXfZ
— Sierra Gillespie (@sierragillespie) January 4, 2022
Taking everything at face value, defendant Halderson was an unemployed slacker who mooched off of his parents, played video games when he was supposed to be working remote for the insurance company, and resorted to increasingly desperate tales to keep the lies going.
According to Brown, Halderson claimed to work at the business for a year, but his father, who was an accountant, kept quizzing him on why he was not paying rent. The defendant gave different stories, first claiming the insurance company withheld his paychecks because they mistakenly had him as an hourly worker instead of salary work, the prosecutor said. Then he allegedly claimed to have given the wrong direct deposit information. Then he allegedly said that the company had to pay him so much money that the bank thought the deposit was fake.
Defendant Halderson went as far as to stage emails between him and a fictitious HR person who used a generic email address, which he forwarded to his father, Brown said. The charade worked for some time. Brown suggested that Halderson’s parents gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“But the way a parent looks at their child as maybe telling the truth is not the way that you as jurors have to look at this,” he said.
Madison police and the state’s Department of Natural Resources did not have scuba diving teams, Brown said. According to the prosecutor, Halderson did go to college but had flunked out after a semester. The situation with the insurance company came to a head: Halderson allegedly claimed he got a job at SpaceX. In this account, he lied to his girlfriend about renting an apartment and buying a car to head down to Titusville, Florida, where the company has its launch facilities.
“He’s going to be an astronaut,” Brown said.
As an escape hatch out of this, Halderson faked getting a serious concussion from a fall downstairs, the prosecutor said. He allegedly claimed to have a brain bleed, a hematoma, spinal damage, having had to get his head drilled open, being unable to use his legs, being unable to drive, getting nerve damage, being unable to fly on an airplane, and needing a colostomy bag.
The state showed jurors pictures of Halderson wearing a neck brace, but surveillance footage from allegedly after the murders showed him without the brace, lugging around bags of ice at gas stations, which Brown said were used to ice his father’s dead body.
According to Brown, Bart Halderson finally figured out the truth, at least about the school. Believing the college was wrongfully withholding his son’s transcript, the older man pretended to be Chaz in a phone call with a college customer service representative, and he learned that the school officials his son communicated with were actually made up.
“That’ll be it then,” Bart Halderson said in this account, his last recorded words alive, from about a day and a half before the murders.
Brown said the man’s calendar showed he planned on meeting school officials with defendant Halderson at 3 p.m. on July 1.
“There’s no way out of this one,” the prosecutor said.
Bart Halderson texted his son at 2:10 p.m. “I’m ready whenever you are,” about 50 minutes before the murder. It was the last time he used his phone, Brown said.
The prosecutor asserted that Chandler shot Bart in the back with a high-powered rifle. Then the defendant texted his mother that dad’s phone died. He asked her to bring him soda.
“K I can,” she wrote, with a smiley face.
Surveillance footage showed Krista eventually entering the home, never to be seen alive again.
The murders happened in a time span between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., he said.
According to authorities, defendant Halderson reported his parents missing on July 7, claiming they went to a cabin. Once again, he allegedly engaged in an elaborate but easily disproven web of lies. For example, he used his mother’s phone, pretended to be her and texted himself on July 4th about a parade in White Lake, which in truth happened the day before.
Continuing to feign injury, Halderson visited a farm owned by his girlfriend’s family, asked to use the pool as therapy for his leg, and used this as an opportunity to hide his father’s torso in nearby woods, Brown said.
His girlfriend–believing him to be innocent–had cooperated with law enforcement in a good faith attempt to clear him from the investigation, but she noticed via location data on Snapchat that he appeared to be in a forest in the banks of the Wisconsin River on July 3rd, contrary to his claim that he was doing chores, according to the prosecutor. It was there that investigators found Krista Halderson’s legs strewn about in several pieces, Brown said.
[Booking photo via Dane County Sheriff’s Office]
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