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Investigators outline physical evidence found in Halderson home during fifth day of testimonies

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 8:21 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2022 at 7:46 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)- Small shears, a broken saw blade and scissors found in an oil drum were among the items detectives poured through during the Chandler Halderson trial Monday.

During the Monday morning session, prosecutors asked members of the Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office to detail the portions of the investigation into the disappearance of the 23-year-old defendant’s parents, Bart and Krista Halderson.

Halderson sat stoic, looking straight ahead, as the deputies each took the stand to discuss their roles and what they found. The 23-year-old has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first degree intentional homicide in his parents’ deaths of his parents. 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.

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.

First up was Lt. Jessamy Torres, who supervised the search at the scene in Cottage Grove where remains of Bart Halderson were located. Torres told the court that a search of nearby properties, including a home and open field initially turned up nothing. In a later search, however, someone close to Chandler Halderson’s then-girlfriend’s family found a rifle in a barn on her property.

Torres conceded investigators may have missed the rifle the first time around. In response to a question from the defense attorney, she confirmed that at least one deputy had been at the scene 24 hours a day since the remains were discovered.

Next came Detective Erik Schneider, a patrol deputy who is also part of the crime scene unit. Given an evidence box, Schneider identified the pruning shears as ones found at the Cottage Grove location. He also confirmed a small saw and other tools presented to him, each of which prosecutors entered into evidence, was the one he pulled from an oil drum

Seemingly to demonstrate how much care investigators take with the evidence, Schneider would change his gloves before handling each tool. He told the jury it was to protect the integrity of any evidence connected to each one. He also confirmed a prosecutor’s question about how he will need to write a report about evidence being opened for the trial, which is designed to detail the chain of custody.

As jury members watched closely, many taking notes as Schneider continued, the deputy talked about the rifle that was found and why investigators may have missed it in their search. Prosecutors detailed how cluttered and messy the barn was, and how there were obstacles obscuring the weapon. An image was introduced showing where the rifle was located and that it was behind boards against the wall of the barn.

During cross-examination, Schneider acknowledged to the defense that searchers knew the remains found had bullet wounds and that it would be logical that they should be looking for a firearm.

Tracking the investigation

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.

The third member of the Sheriff’s Office to take the stand before the morning, Det. Dan Feeney, recounted finding a grocery bag that contained cleaning materials in a garbage can on the property and how, upon opening it, he was hit with the strong odor of rubbing alcohol and then a “rancid, putrid smell.” He confirmed to jurors that the red substance they were seeing on photographs of the bag was blood.

Another member of the of the crime scene unit, Deputy James Plenty, was called just prior to the 15-minute break. After the court resumed, Deputy Greg Leatherberry, a 29-year veteran with the Sheriff’s Office, took the stand and explained his role leading the search of the Halderson’s home. He started by telling jurors about the care they take during the search, wearing protective gear and using flashlights, with the goal to “minimize(e) contamination.”

He described the tri-level structure as “half-finished and half in the state of repair” and apparently under renovation at the time. Shown pictures of the house, he walked the jurors through the house and items found in it. Blood was also found on the laundry room floor, a bathroom’s floorboards, and on a vacuum cleaner, he testified.

Near a computer found in Bart Halderson’s office, investigators found a piece of paper that contained what they believe are approximately 50 usernames and passwords, he continued. An email they found from Krista Halderson to her husband contained the subject line: Madison College.

Prior to the morning ending, Leatherberry was shown a picture of a Google Home Mini device that was on Halderson’s desk. He detailed how it and two others in the house were unplugged and theorized that could have been done to prevent them from recording any audio. Asked why he photographed them for evidence, the deputy explained that he wanted to have show that it was there in case the device happened to have recorded any conversation or comments that were made, even if the wake word, often either “Hey Google” or “Okay Google,” was used.

Soon after he finished, they broke for lunch.

When they returned, Leatherberry continued to go through items of evidence.

Investigators saw a black rope found in the Halderson home is the same as one found wrapped around a portion of remains found in Cottage Grove, later identified to be Bart Halderson. Detectives also testified to finding blood throughout the home, bone fragment in the fireplace and firearm magazines that appeared to be hidden in a wall behind basement insulation.

Investigators say one item that stood out to them that they say wasn’t there the day Chandler Halderson reported his parents missing on July 7 was a free standing freezer, which was open and clean. They tested this for evidence.

Wisconsin State Crime Lab forensic scientist Nick Stahlke was also called to the stand, explaining that he is trained to work with luminol. Luminol is a chemical that when added to a certain area, it can show the presence of blood or bleach when under certain light. He explained that this can be used to determine if there is a cleanup at the crime scene.

“Areas of concern” were tested in the Halderson home, including in the basement, the garage and a family room. He noted that the basement gave a very strong result to luminol, with even footwear impressions in blood becoming apparent.

The defense pressed Stahlke on the fact that the luminol could show blood or bleach, but not necessarily clarify which one. Stahlke explained that additional testing would need to be done to show the difference, which was done in several locations.

Leatherberry also noted that there was a test conducted on the freezer in the basement, with a positive result coming in for human blood in its drain.

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.

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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