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Family friends, neighbors testify in the Chandler Halderson trial

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 8:24 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 5, 2022 at 5:11 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - More than a dozen witnesses took the stand Wednesday in the trial of a 23-year-old Dane County man accused of killing his parents, including the couple’s best friends.

Michael Hilgendorf and his wife Jane testified that they grew concerned after learning their friends had gone missing, saying it was out of character for Krista to not show up for work.

“That’s not my best friend,” said Jane Hilgendorf.

When asked by the prosecutor as what type of parents the Haldersons were to their sons Mitchell and Chandler, Jane answered “Amazing.”

“They always gave them options and choices,” said Jane.

The pair went up to the Halderson family’s cabin in Langlade County to look for them, after being told by Chandler that that was where they had gone.

The couple’s twin daughters, Hailey and Hanna, told the court that they went to see Chandler on July 7. They were supposed to make dinner with him, who they commonly called “Chaz,” but police were at the house late into the evening.

Hanna Hilgendorf told prosecutors that Chandler Halderson’s demeanor was odd and that his claims that his parents may have went to a casino were unbelievable. She also stated that Chandler seemed to be asking her about how to act, such as asking if he should post on Facebook about the disappearance, which she was was “interesting.”

“There is nobody sweeter than those two. Like anything they can do for you, they’re going to do it,” said Hanna. “They would never make anybody worry about where they are, kind of people. And especially no way to a casino.”

Bart Halderson’s brother, Brett, also took the stand. He explained how he and Chandler Halderson were in contact after the disappearance of both Bart and Krista. He also suggested that Chandler ask around for home surveillance video, partly because he is in law enforcement, but mostly because he was concerned for his brother.

He also said that the last time he spoke to Bart Halderson was on July 1, which was Brett’s birthday.

“Our family makes it a ritual of contacting each other on our birthdays,” said Brett Halderson. “And that was the phone call that he had made to me that morning.”

There were also reviews of video evidence collected from neighbors around the street from where the Haldersons live. Multiple Ring doorbell videos show Chandler going from house to house, asking residents if they can see the street from where their camera is. The presentation of the video of the Halderson home included a repeat-witness, Deputy Sheriff Brian Shunk of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.

The prosecutors also played video of cars driving throughout the street, as well as a video of inside the Halderson home from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.

Chandler Halderson has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first degree intentional homicide in the deaths of his parents, Bart and Krista Halderson. He is also accused of two counts of providing false information on a kidnapping, two counts of mutilating a corpse and two counts of hiding a corpse.

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.

NBC15 conducted a full interview with Chandler Halderson, 23, prior to authorities charging him with alleged homicide counts.

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