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Day 6: DNA collection reports from the Halderson home presented during trial

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 5:58 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 6:16 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Bart and Krista Halderson’s fireplace took centerstage Tuesday morning as prosecutors focused on an apparent bone found in it and a flickering light. The details were the first offered by prosecutors in the trial of the Halderson’s son, Chandler, who is accused of killing both his parents and disposing of their bodies.

It was also confirmed after the jury had left for the day that the defendant had tested positive for the coronavirus.

An arson expert from the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice described the fragments found in the fireplace. Special Agent William Boswell explained to jurors that even when a body is burned, bone fragments and teeth often still remain because they often will not turn to ash unless the fire reaches temperatures far beyond the 1,800 degrees that is often the limit without taking extra steps to heat it further. Bringing out images of the fireplace prosecutors introduced the previous day, prosecutors asked him to identify a small white item found in it.

Boswell responded that the object, which was a little more than an inch wide and an inch tall, appeared to be a burnt bone. About three more similar objects were found nearby. More apparent bones were found in the fireplace’s ash trap, he testified. Boswell detailed to jurors how the trap sits in the Halderson’s basement and was not easy for them to access. He recounted how they spent hours cutting a hole into the concrete wall and collecting the debris. In the debris, he said investigators found more items they believed were bone. However, Boswell conceded that he was unable to determine of they were human bones, as opposed to another animals, and that he sent the items to an expert who specializes in bone identification.

Boswell’s testimony followed Dane Co. Deputy Scott Kuntz, who specializes in collecting audio and video evidence and helps recreate homicide scenes. Kuntz was part of the Sheriff’s Office’s team that analyzed video reportedly taken by a neighbor, Collin Lynch, who testified earlier in the day. In his testimony, Lynch told jurors he lived across the pond from the Haldersons and has 13 cameras surrounding his home, one of which was pointed toward the pond and, as such, toward the Halderson’s home. He confirmed to prosecutors that the video was his and that he provided it to police.

In his testimony, prosecutors played 35 minutes of the surveillance video from early in the morning of July 2, 2021, the morning that investigators claim a flickering light was seen on the video coming from the fireplace. About the time the video showed 2:59 a.m., what investigators identify as the flickering light could be seen, it also showed through other windows of the home. A little more than a half-hour later, the light goes out.

Following Boswell and Kuntz’ testimony, the court broke for lunch.

The store manager of Kwik Trip in Windsor took the stand while surveillance video was played from the store on July 1, 2021. The video showed a person buying two bags of ice, exiting from the store, then driving away in a car. The state also presented a receipt from the gas station for the bags of ice.

The state also played video surveillance of a Fleet Farm while a former employee of the location testified. The clip played showed a man by the section of the store where tarps are sold, a well as buying a black and silver tarp at the front register. The purchase was made the morning of July 2, 2021.

Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Cori Bredlauer of the Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office shared the findings of the autopsy reports from the remains of both Bart and Krista Halderson. It was determined Bart died as a result of homicide by gunshot wounds to the torso. The defense pointed to that the autopsy does not indicate how long after death the dismemberment to Bart Halderson’s body took place.

Halderson’s defense also argued that there is no evidence to how many people shot Bart and an “unknown firearm” was listed in the report. There was nothing in the report that tells what type of gun was used.

Evidence presented from inside the Halderson home during second week of trial
Evidence presented from inside the Halderson home during second week of trial

Following a short break, forensic scientist Denise Jones of the Wisconsin State Crime Lab displayed four separate reports in the Halderson case. An examiner recovered dried blood from Bart Halderson, an electric toothbrush used by Krista and portions of human remains. T

here was also a buccal swab collected from Mitchell Halderson, who is the Halderson couple’s other son. He is not and never has been named a person of interest in the case. He took the stand last week on the first day of testimonies.

Jones continued, saying Bart Halderson’s DNA was found on various items, inclduing in blood on a tarp, the blade of a handsaw, a pruning shear and metal fragments. Krista Halderson’s blood was found in items such as a separate area of the tarp, pruning shears and a handsaw. Chandler Halderson’s DNA was determined in blood found on jeans and in the family room of the Halderson’s home.

The defense stated that DNA can be found on objects when there isn’t blood there, pointing out Chandler’s DNA was excluded from an axe handle sample.

About 30 minutes after the jury was released for the day Tuesday, it was confirmed that Chandler Halderson had tested positive for COVID-19. The judge and attorneys from both sides reconvened to discuss the next steps for the trial, saying it would be delayed.

Small shears, a broken saw blade and scissors found in an oil drum were among the items detectives poured through Monday during Halderson’s trial. Dane County Sheriff’s Office investigators testified Friday that after they found human remains in Cottage Grove related to the Halderson couple’s disappearances, they said that was when the investigation turned from a missing person’s case to a homicide investigation.

Multiple Dane Co. deputies and detectives took the stand Monday, along with a forensic scientist from the Wisconsin State Crime Lab. Last week, family friends and neighbors, as well as a former girlfriend and detectives who investigated the Bart and Krista Halderson’s disappearance and deaths, all testified in the case.

Chandler Halderson trial heads into week 2
Chandler Halderson trial heads into week 2
The Halderson case

The Halderson Case

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Bart & Krista Halderson were last seen on July 1 by a family member at the couple’s home in Dane County.

Chandler Halderson reported to authorities that his parents were missing on July 7. At that time, authorities believed the couple had planned a trip to Langlade County, Wisconsin over the weekend and family had been unable to confirm that they arrived.

At the time, he told investigators his parents and an unknown couple had left the preceding Friday morning to visit their cabin in White Lake for the July Fourth holiday weekend.

Immediately following the missing persons report, the Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office reached out to their counterparts in Langlade Co. who checked the cabin’s property but found no one there.

The sheriff’s office upped the status of the couple’s disappearance on July 8, calling it “suspicious.” Police arrested Chandler Halderson that day for allegedly providing deputies with false information on a kidnapping.

Human remains were also located July 8 in rural Cottage Grove. The remains were confirmed to be those of Bart Halderson on July 12.

Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett noted at that time that investigators had obtained a search warrant for the Halderson home.

“[W]e want to extend our condolences to the Halderson family,” Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett said on July 12. “We understand that some of the details of this investigation are very difficult for them to hear and we want to be sensitive to that.”

Shortly after the medical examiner’s report was released, the Sheriff’s Office stated it now considered the missing persons case a homicide investigation. Additionally, three new counts, including first degree homicide, were filed against Halderson’s son, Chandler. At that time, Krista was still considered missing.

Sheriff Barrett explained July 9 that as investigators continued interviewing the Haldersons’ family, friends, and neighbors, they developed information that led them to the location where the remains were found.

Prosecutors noted Monday, July 11 that witnesses claimed to have seen Chandler Halderson multiple times near a wood line outside the rural Dane Co. property, where his father’s remains were later found.

During a court appearance on July 15, Court Commissioner Brian Asmus set bail for Chandler Halderson at $1 million after arguments by prosecutors and Halderson’s attorney.

Defense attorney Catherine Dorl told Asmus her client is a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, has been involved in the Boy Scouts and church groups, and has no prior criminal history. She had asked that bail be continued at $10,000.

The District Attorney’s office also released a 14-page document that day detailing the investigation into the murder of Bart Halderson.

It contains several interviews with Chandler Halderson, friends, family and witnesses. The complaint does not specify when and where Bart Halderson was killed, but it does place Chandler at the site where Bart’s remains were discovered.

According to the complaint, a family friend greeted Halderson when he arrived on her rural property on July 8 in Cottage Grove, where Bart Halderson’s remains were eventually located. The friend asked Halderson if he was OK, and he said he was not OK, and that he was having problems reading words and numbers.

The statement goes on to say Halderson asked to use the pool, the friend said yes, and observed Halderson was gone somewhere between 1-1.5 hours and when he returned, the friend told authorities Halderson was not wet and the pool cover was still intact.

The friend also observed Halderson walking around to a shed nearby on the property, where she could not see what Halderson was doing. She told authorities after that, Halderson took a dip in the pool and “[appeared] to be washing off.”

According to the document, investigators spoke with a friend of Chandler’s, who says he brought Halderson a gun and ammunition on June 12.

During a search of the Halderson home, investigators found casings that would have fired properly from the type of gun Chandler Halderson had obtained from that friend. The complaint does not go into details about the whereabouts of that firearm, or if it has been recovered.

According to the complaint, Halderson went door-to-door and asked to look at home surveillance video from neighbors. An NBC15 News reporter interviewed Halderson on July 8; the day after Bart and Krista Halderson were reported missing, and before Chandler Halderson was arrested.

While in the neighborhood, the reporter saw Halderson doing precisely that, and told the reporter he wanted to see if he could catch a glimpse of his parents leaving the house.

The complaint says Halderson asked at least one neighbor for surveillance video and asked if the camera captured the road or his house.

The document also continually comes back to a foot injury Halderson had bandaged up.

The criminal complaint also revealed that a second portion of human remains had been discovered near Old Hwy 60 along the Wisconsin River, a Department of Natural Resources property, near the Town of Roxbury.

Investigators targeted a new location on July 20 as they searched for Krista Halderson.

The Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office revealed they had been searching the Waste Management landfill, near Johnson Creek, as they searched for her.

On July 22, Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office dive teams and a cadaver dog searched a pond near the home of Bart and Krista Halderson, as the search continues for the latter.

Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Elise Schaffer said they began draining the pond to gain better access in the afternoon. She said a cadaver dog alerted them to certain areas in the pond, but crews had not found anything significant.

The search is not the result of any specific tips, she explained, and searchers went there because of its proximity to the Halderson’s home.

“It’s just an obvious location that we would want to search for evidence or anything that might be related to this crime,” she said.

On Friday, July 30, the Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office confirmed remains located in the Town of Roxbury were that of Krista Halderson. As a result, its investigators asked the District Attorney’s Office to add a second first-degree homicide charges, as well as charges of hiding and mutilating a corpse, against Chandler Halderson, who was already faces the same allegations stemming from his father’s death.

“We have kept the Halderson family in our thoughts and prayers throughout this investigation and we extend our continued sympathies to them today. We ask that everyone allow them to grieve this tremendous loss with the utmost respect and dignity,” Sheriff Kalvin Barrett said that day.

Barrett also noted then that investigators found more human remains on Bart and Krista Halderson’s property. Those remains have not been identified and Barrett did not say if they were found inside the house or outdoors.

According to an updated criminal complaint August 25, it includes new information about when Krista Halderson was last seen and that authorities had found her and Bart Halderson’s cell phones and drivers licenses.

The complaint also releases new information about Krista’s last known whereabouts. Surveillance video shows that Krista left work on Thursday, July 1 around 5 p.m. and arrived home around 5:10 p.m. that day.

The same vehicle later pulls out of the Halderson’s driveway around 8:15 p.m. and stops at a Kwik Trip on the 4300 block of Windsor Drive in the Village of Windsor. A man goes in the store and buys two bags of ice. Authorities do not say who the man is.

Also in the complaint, a sheriff’s deputy states on July 28, he went to the Halderson home to process it. When he went into the garage, he found Krista and Bart’s phones and drivers licenses inside of a pair of shoes, wrapped in tinfoil and paper towels.

Authorities continued, saying they obtained text messages reportedly between Chandler and Krista that were sent on July 4 that discussed that they would be going to a parade, but the parade was actually scheduled for July 3.

Authorities also obtained Chandler’s Google search history, finding searches that referred to bodies being found, bodies being found in southern Wisconsin and his parents’ names. These searches were all made the morning of July 8, prior to authorities finding the remains of Bart Halderson later that day.

Chandler Halderson stood mute in court during his arraignment Aug. 31, leading the judge to enter not guilty pleas on his behalf. Later that night, court documents updated with a schedule of the 23-year-old’s trial dates. He withdrew his demand for a speedy trial.

In November, a judge denied the defense’s motion to prohibit news media from livestreaming court proceedings in the homicide trial. The motion was denied in part after NBC15 and other media groups fought to guarantee the public’s right to information in the trial.

A second motion, proposed to exclude the use of jail recordings and correspondence made by Halderson, was also denied in court.

On Dec. 29, Chandler Halderson appeared in court for a jury status hearing. It would be the final court appearance prior to the start of the trial.

NBC15 conducted an interview with Chandler Halderson the day of his arrest, but before he was taken into custody and formally considered a suspect in his parents’ deaths. Chandler had only consented to an audio interview, which is why he doesn’t appear on camera.

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