Chandler Halderson case: Did a Wisconsin man’s lies lead to the murders of his parents?
Chandler Halderson case: Did a Wisconsin man’s lies lead to the murders of his parents?

This story originally aired on Nov. 5, 2022. It was updated on Aug. 5, 2023.

Bart and Krista Halderson had everything a couple could want: a beautiful home in Windsor, Wisconsin, and two sons they adored. Mitchell, 24, who worked in tech, Chandler, 23, a college student living at home.

Chandler had big ambitions – he talked of getting his IT degree, of his promising internship at an insurance company, and was especially excited about a new job he landed at Space X—founded by one of the richest people in the world, Elon Musk.

Bart and Krista Halderson
Bart and Krista Halderson

Dane County Sheriff’s Office


Everything seemed to be going well for the Haldersons.  So, on Friday morning, July 2, when Krista just didn’t show up at the office, Daniel Kroninger remembers becoming concerned.

Erin Moriarty: How unusual was it for, number one, for Krista not to show up for work, not to call and just not show up? How unusual?

Daniel Kroninger: Extremely unusual.

Kroninger and Krista not only worked together, but they were also close friends.

Daniel Kroninger: So, when she hadn’t said anything to me, I was like, “we’ll that’s kinda weird” you know … It wasn’t something that she would ever do.

Kroninger says he texted and called her several times but got no response.   Later that afternoon, he and his girlfriend drove over to the Halderson home. A neighbor’s security camera shows them arriving.

Daniel Kroninger: You know, knocked on the door, didn’t hear anything … peered through the window. The only thing that seemed weird was there was a coffee table on its side. … you look through the door it was kinda off to the right over by … they had a fireplace over there.

Then, Kroninger says, he walked over to the garage window.

Daniel Kroninger: I looked in. Both cars were there. And I was like, “what?” You know, why are both cars here? And I was starting to go around the back of the house, and then Chandler came out the side door … and he came out in a towel saying, “Oh, I just got outta the shower,” you know, “hey what’s goin’ on?” I was like, “we’re just looking for Bart and Krista.” And he said, “Oh yeah, they went … had to go up north this morning for an emergency up at the cabin.”

Kroninger says he was relieved to know that Bart and Krista were at the family cabin. Over the holiday weekend, he kept in touch with Chandler to see if he had heard from his mom and dad.

Daniel Kroninger: He said, “yeah, they don’t have very good service up there so you kinda have to wait till the clouds clear before they get a message.”

On Sunday July 4, Kroninger says Chandler called him and said he was “bored and needed something to do.” So, Dan invited him over to watch the fireworks and asked Chandler about his parents.

Daniel Kroninger:  He mentioned that he talked to them and they’re gonna be back Monday.

Erin Moriarty: When he said that he talked to them, did he say, he talked to both his parents or just his mom? What did he say? Do you remember?

Daniel Kroninger: I don’t think he was specific … I mean, I was asking about his mom because I knew she had a doctor’s appointment coming up that she was really, really wanted to be at. I think it had been rescheduled before.

But Krista didn’t show up for work on Monday and again on Tuesday. By Wednesday July 7, when there was still no word. Dan knew something was wrong.

Daniel Kroninger: And now she’s missed her appointment

Erin Moriarty: So, now it’s all out concern.

Daniel Kroninger: Right.

Erin Moriarty: You know something’s happened to her now.

Daniel Kroninger: Right, right.

Kroninger pushed Chandler to file a missing person’s report that morning.

Det. Sabrina Sims: Chandler Halderson walked into one of our precincts to report his parents missing.

Detectives Sabrina Sims and Brian Shunk with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office would lead the team to track down the missing couple.

Det. Brian Shunk: We had a lot of detectives assisting us with the caseload.

Their first stop: the Halderson home on Oak Spring Circle Drive  

Erin Moriarty: So, when you first got there, who was home?

Det. Brian Shunk: It was just Chandler.

Det. Sabrina Sims: We’re inside the house with him and detectives are getting information outside and so we’re either getting phone calls or text messages of you know “hey, maybe ask about this.” We’re walking around the house with him. He’s pointing out things at the house, things that were missing that his parents took when they traveled to the cabin.

While deputies began interviewing neighbors and friends, Barbi Townsend, Krista’s first cousin, who lives in southern California, knew only what she had seen on the news: that the Halderson’s 23-year-old son Chandler had gone to the police telling them his parents were missing.

Barbi Townsend: What does that mean? What does missing mean?  And that they had gone up to our cabin … the family cottage and didn’t return.

Bart and Krista had not mentioned to coworkers, or their older son Mitchell, that they’d been planning to go to the cabin that weekend. But according to Chandler, another couple, who he didn’t know, picked up his parents and drove them there.

The cabin was a remote, rustic lakeside retreat, and a treasured family heirloom. Barbi and Krista’s grandparents built it in the 1940s.

Barbi Townsend: You know, you start to think of crazy things cause our cabin’s up in the woods … and so we were worried are they being held hostage somewhere? … Are they tied up somewhere?

The day after Chandler reported them missing, his brother Mitchell and his fiancée drove three hours up north to see if he could find any sign of his parents.

Barbi Townsend: Why would they not call? Why wouldn’t there be a text or something?

Barbi Townsend: Your mind starts to go down really murky trails because you are trying to figure out what’s going on.

OFFICER (body cam): Hi there.

MITCHELL HALDERSON’S FIANCÉE: Hi there.

OFFICER: Are you guys uh …

MITCHELL HALDERSON’S FIANCÉE: The Haldersons.

OFFICER: You — OK you are affiliated with them?

MITCHELL HALDERSON’S FIANCÉE: Yes.

OFFICER: OK, maybe we could just take a walk around and see, you would know the property probably better than we would.

The police met Mitchell and his fiancée at the cabin — prepared for the worst.

SEARCHING FOR KRISTA AND BART

When the Haldersons disappeared, it stunned everyone who knew them. Barbi Townsend said neither her cousin Krista nor her husband Bart would just leave on a whim

Barbi Townsend: He was more structured. She was more nurturing – you know, indulging mom. It was a wonderful combination.

She worked as a customer service representative for an auto body shop and loved art projects. He was a managing director for an international accounting firm and enjoyed woodworking.

Barbi Townsend: They were 100 percent about family … and very involved in the scouting.

Halderson family
Chandler, left, Bart, and Mitchell Halderson on Father’s Day 2021.

Haldersons were together on Father’s Day in June 2021, less than a month before Bart disappeared.  In a photo taken that day, Mitchell is smiling and Chandler, who had a mild concussion from a fall, is wearing a neck brace.

Investigators, anxious to find out what had happened to Bart and Krista Halderson, asked deputies from the Langlade County Sheriff’s Office to help Mitchell, who brought along his fiancée, search the family’s cabin – a three-hour drive north of the family home.

When they got inside, it was dark. There were no signs of Krista and Bart. They also checked a shed; the canoe was there. It was obvious. No one had been to the cabin in a very long time.

OFFICER (body cam): They’re believed to be with another couple?

MITCHELL HALDERSON: Someone else at least.

OFFICER: OK.

When Mitchell was with the police searching the family’s cabin, Chandler was on his own hunt throughout the neighborhood.

He is seen on video doorbell cameras going door to door asking homeowners if they had seen or heard from his parents.

Chandler Halderson
As detectives began investigating Bart and Krista’s mysterious disappearance, Chandler Halderson knocked on neighbors’ doors asking if they’d seen or heard from his parents. 

Dane County Sheriff’s Office


CHANDLER HALDERSON (doorbell camera video): It’s kinda difficult to track them down.

Reporter Adam Duxter, now with CBS station WCCO in Minneapolis, worked in Madison, Wisconsin, at the time. He immediately started calling his sources.

Adam Duxter: So, we’re waiting to hear back from the sheriff’s office, and my boss at the time, he was like, “Well you can’t just sit around, you gotta go start shooting something” … and so … packed my gear in my car and drove out to their street in Windsor.

He knocked on the Halderson’s front door. The missing couple’s son Chandler answered.

Adam Duxter: And, so, I’m like, “If you’d be willing … I’d love to do a quick interview” … And he was like, “Yeah, I’ll do that. … but I don’t want you got film me. I don’t want to be shown, but you can record my voice.”

CHANDLER HALDERSON INTERVIEW AUDIO: So, my last message I got from them, they were going to White Lake for the Fourth of July … Other than that, their plan or from to my knowledge they were going to Langlade County to a cabin, their cabin …

Adam Duxter: At the time, I got the sense that he was in shock … This is someone who is roughly my age … And so, I’m thinking like, “Yeah, if my parents just went missing” – he probably hasn’t slept, he’s probably really nervous.

Alex Gravatt knew Chandler well.

Alex Gravatt: I was roommates with Chandler for a little while. … I called him Chaz.

The two friends shared an apartment from 2019 to 2020.

Alex Gravatt: We grew up together and we played soccer together, did cub scouts together, and just hung out together. … he was a great swimmer, so I know that the swim team really got along with him.

Gravatt says his friend Chandler, who went by the name “Chaz,” could be a playful guy.

Alex Gravatt: He was a goon, a hooligan in a lot of — in a lot of senses.

Erin Moriarty: What do you mean by that?

Alex Gravatt: Yeah, I mean, so he would play pranks and … he would make lots of jokes or poke fun at people.

Gravatt described “Chaz” as popular with women. College student Cathryn Mellender, known as “Cat,” was his longtime girlfriend.

Alex Gravatt: He was a relatively attractive guy. … I mean he looked good. He had great hair. He kept up on appearances.

According to Gravatt, when they were roommates, “Chaz” often bragged to friends about “hooking up” with different women behind Cat’s back. When she found out about it —

Alex Gravatt: She grilled him. She was like “are you seeing other people?” … and he just kept denying it.

But Mellender remained suspicious and began tracking her boyfriend on social media. Gravatt says Chaz became more secretive and moved back home with his parents. And now those parents were missing. Detectives Shunk and Sims began follow-up interviews.

Det. Sabrina Sims: At that point, you know, what do we really have? We don’t know what we have.

Then they got a tip they desperately needed from the owner of a farm outside town.

Det. Sabrina Sims: We received information … from someone that, “yes … Chandler has been out to my property over the Fourth of July weekend.”

The owner was a friend of Chandler’s girlfriend Cat Mellender. The owner said she was with the couple at her farm on July 4. She told deputies she was surprised to see Chandler again, the very next day, and this time he was alone.

Det. Sabrina Sims: You know, and I saw him coming from the wood line. His car was parked backed up to the field. … So, of course right from that interview, we want to go search that property.

As deputies began searching, detectives wanted to know why Chandler had never mentioned he’d gone back to the farm by himself. Police picked Chandler up and took him to the station.

Detective Brian Shunk asked him to once again describe the last time he had seen his parents.

CHANDLER HALDERSON: It’s Thursday morning. I wake up.

DET. BRIAN SHUNK: What time do you think?

CHANDLER HALDERSON: Six.

Chandler said his dad Bart was at home working, and that later he had dinner with both his parents.

CHANDLER HALDERSON: That’s where they told me, while they were eating it … they were gonna go with their friends, and I was like, “Oh, cool.”

DET. BRIAN SHUNK: And they had said they were going to the cabin.

CHANDLER HALDERSON: Well, “we’re going up north.”

While detectives questioned Chandler, deputies were out searching the farm and made a discovery that quickly changed the tone of the interview.

Chandler Halderson questioned
The police interview lasted about two hours. Chandler Halderson told detectives his parents had gone to the cabin to take care of a plumbing emergency and that he helped them pack tools for the repairs.  

Dane County Sheriff’s Office


DET. HENDRICKSON: Listen to me. This is the only chance you’re gonna have to tell us the truth. OK? … What we, listen, listen — I can’t tell you what we know, but we know you’re not telling us the truth … you need to tell the truth.

CHANDLER HALDERSON: There’s — (sighs)

DET. HENDRICKSON: Listen, listen, you need to tell the truth about what happened. And just tell us why it happened. I’m not B.S.in’ you, OK? So, can we do that?

CHANDLER HALDERSON: OK … yeah, OK. Lawyer.

Chandler’s request for a lawyer ended that interview. Detective Sims remembers the moment she learned what deputies told her they had found near that field.

Det. Sabrina Sims: You know, Brian and I were in the command post together … And I said, “What did you say?” You know I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

They had discovered human remains.

A DISTURBING DISCOVERY

On Thursday, July 8, 2021, in the village of Windsor, Wisconsin, the community struggled to make sense of the disturbing news.

The remains of an adult male had been found on a farm 20 miles from Bart and Krista Halderson’s home.

SHERIFF KALVIN BARRETT (to reporters): At this point, it’s very early in our investigation. I don’t want to make any uncorroborated speculations at this time.

Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett warned residents not to jump to conclusions.

The gruesome discovery was made the day after Bart and Krista had been reported missing by their son, and it was something detectives Brian Shunk and Sabrina Sims had never encountered.

Det. Sabrina Sims: The grass had been matted down. And they followed it to a trail which led to the discovery of a male torso that was concealed with sticks and twigs.

Erin Moriarty: That was really the moment, right?

Det. Brian Shunk: It was huge.

Det. Sabrina Sims: I think of other death investigations or homicide cases we’ve worked and, I don’t remember a time that I’ve worked a dismemberment case.

Erin Moriarty: And what other evidence was found out there?

Det. Sabrina Sims: We found some cutting instruments that were hidden in an old oil drum … some scissors, pruning shears – a broken bow saw.

And it was all in the same wooded area where the Halderson’s son, Chandler, had been seen earlier in the week.  Detective Sims had a pretty good idea who the victim was.

Det. Sabrina Sims: Knowing in my gut that that was most likely Bart Halderson, and his son was seen in that area …

Police turned their full attention to Chandler Halderson; he was now a person of interest and the prime suspect. While tests were being done to confirm the victim’s identity, detectives arrested Chandler and charged him with lying to them.

SHERIFF KALVIN BARRETT (to reporters): The arrest was based on him providing false information in regards to a missing person.

Erin Moriarty: What did you think? They arrested him … for giving false information about a missing person.

Barbi Townsend | Krista Halderson’s cousin: That was the first day that I started to suspect foul play from their — from their own son.

Alex Gravatt: I checked my phone … and I saw that — that he had been arrested … and it was pretty wild.

Alex Gravatt, his childhood friend, learned about it on social media.

Alex Gravatt: My eyes got wide, I kinda just sat there for a second reading it … my first thought was if he’s being arrested for giving misinformation to the police … I didn’t think that there was really much chance that he wasn’t involved somehow.

But there’s someone who had a hard time imaging Chandler was involved – his girlfriend Cat Mellender.  She spoke to police just before his arrest.

DETECTIVE: You don’t think he had anything to do with his mom and dad being unheard from?

CAT MELLENDER: No. I just — no. … that’d be crazy. … but I just don’t see him killing Mr. and Mrs. Halderson. Like, he had SpaceX. Like, why would he jeopardize something he, like, would dream of, you know? Like, they’re his parents. For Christmas, they got him and his brother matching tool sets. Like, come on.

DETECTIVE: OK.

CAT MELLENDER: He cooks dinner for them. They have root beer floats together. They play Mario Kart whenever his parents want to.

But, on Saturday July 10, 2021, the victim found in the woods was identified as Bart Halderson.

Det. Sabrina Sims: It just changed everything, like that moment changed everything …

Preliminary autopsy results would reveal Bart had been shot at least two times in the back. And there was still the troubling question: where was Krista? 

SHERIFF KALVIN BARRETT (to reporters): Krista Halderson remains a missing person and we continue to ask for citizen involvement.

Krista’s co-worker Dan Kroninger ran through all the different possibilities.

Erin Moriarty: Did you at that moment … wonder, like, maybe Krista was involved in this too?

Dan Kroninger: It had definitely crossed my mind … you start to wonder, “well, why is Chandler lying? Is he covering for himself is or he covering for perhaps his mother? Is she involved?”

But the more investigators looked, it seemed the only person Chandler Halderson was covering for was himself.

Det. Sabrina Sims: You know, he just lied to everybody.

And in his lies, police started to believe they found a motive for murder. For months he’d been telling everyone, including his childhood friend, Alex Gravatt, that he was enrolled at Madison College during the 2021 spring semester.

Erin Moriarty: Did you have any idea he had flunked out?

Alex Gravatt: No.

Erin Moriarty: He didn’t tell you?

Alex Gravatt: No, it was surprising.

Detectives believe his parents had no idea he wasn’t in school. They say when his parents questioned him about his transcripts, the computer savvy Chandler Halderson crafted a chain of emails that seemed to come from the college.

Chandler Halderson fake email
Investigators say Chandler Halderson had made up a series of fake e-mails to make his parents believe he was still enrolled in school.

Dane County Clerk of Courts


Det. Sabrina Sims: Chandler creates people that work for Madison College and communicates via email with them. You know, Bart’s on some of them as well, talking to who he believes is employees of the school.

Erin Moriarty: And do any of those people actually exist?

Det. Sabrina Sims: No.

In June 2021, Bart Halderson called Madison College, pretending to be Chandler, and got an answer he wasn’t expecting:

MADISON COLLEGE OFFICIAL (phone call audio): I don’t see that you were admitted in any program

BART HALDERSON: you said there, the IT degree is in there, right?

MADISON COLLEGE OFFICIAL: No, those are just classes … You might have just took the classes but not be in the program.

Bart learned that not only had his son been lying about that IT degree, but there was no internship with an insurance company, either. And remember that big job with SpaceX? It turns out that was just another elaborate lie.

Barbi Townsend: The delusional reality that he concocted … that is shocking to me.

According to detectives, Bart was planning to meet at the college with his son on Thursday July 1. Around 2 p.m. Bart, who was working from home, sent his son this text: “I’m ready whenever you are.”

That text is believed to be the last message Bart sent.

Seven days later, Bart’s remains were found. Investigators got a search warrant for the Halderson home. No weapon was found there, but a shell casing was discovered in the basement, and several areas inside the house tested positive for blood.

SHERIFF KALVIN BARRETT (to reporters): Chandler middle initial, M, last name Halderson, age 23 of Windsor, is now being charged with first-degree homicide, hiding a corpse, and mutilating a corpse.  

Chandler Halderson
Chandler Halderson was charged with his father’s murder and with dismembering and hiding a body.

Dane County Jail Records


On July 15, 2021, Chandler Halderson was formally charged with his father’s murder.

SHERIFF KALVIN BARRETT (to reporters): Chandler is currently being held in the Dane County Jail.

Barbi Townsend: I mean I don’t know what else to say … How could you do that to your father?

But where was his mother, Krista?  Chandler Halderson had lawyered up and wasn’t talking, but someone very close to him was.

Det. Sabrina Sims: She had communicated with him that whole weekend.

That loyal girlfriend, Cat Mellender, had a potentially damning piece of evidence about her boyfriend on the social media app Snapchat.

Det. Sabrina Sims: She actually consented to a download … of her phone.

Erin Moriarty: So that was a breakthrough.

Det. Sabrina Sims: (nods her head yes to affirm)

THE SNAPCHAT CLUE

Chandler Halderson was charged with his father’s murder, but his mother’s whereabouts were still unknown. Lead detectives Sabrina Sims and Brian Shunk knew if Krista was alive, they needed to find her fast.

Det. Brian Shunk: At that point, we were hoping for the best … it was one of those things we just needed to push on.

Detectives turned to Chandler’s girlfriend for help. She had given them permission to download information from her phone.

Det. Sabrina Sims: Chandler had lied to her before and had cheated on her before. And so she — you know, would track his location.

Cat Mellender had convinced Chandler to let her track his movements using Snapchat — the popular social media app which allows users to send messages and share their location in real time.

Det. Sabrina Sims: And that was an agreement that … “Yes, you will have your locations on so I can see where you are going…”

Detectives were most intrigued by messages posted early on the morning of July 1, the day Chandler Halderson and his father were supposed to meet with Madison College officials.  Chandler Halderson, whose online name was “chazzzledazl, messaged Mellender at 7:30 a.m.

chazzzledazl: I hardly slept

Cat: I’m sorry b. Why?

chazzzledazl: Idk stuff hasn’t really been going well for me lately so I’m tryna plan for the next thing to f*** me over

Cat: B it’s gonna be okay

chazzzledazl: Yeah I just had a great future planned and it’s falling apart

According to detectives, the tone of those messages worried Cat. So, two days later when Cat checks Snapchat and noticed her boyfriend’s avatar — “Hubby” on her screen—indicated that he was nearly 25 miles from home – Cat saved the image to her phone.

Chandler Halderson Snapchat clue
A screenshot of Cat Mellender’s Snapchat app, showing her boyfriend Chandler Halderson’s avatar  — “Hubby” on her screen — at a remote location near the Wisconsin River days after his parents went missing. 

Dane County Clerk of Courts


Det. Sabrina Sims:  It was a Snapchat screen shot of Chandler … almost nine in the morning out by the Wisconsin River.

Detectives Sims and Shunk took “48 Hours” to that location on the river where they had hoped to find Krista.

Erin Moriarty: So where are we exactly? What would you call this area?

Det. Brian Shunk: It’s the Wisconsin State Lower Riverway.

This photo of Chandler holding a knife was taken near the Wisconsin River a year earlier.

Dane County Clerk of Courts


And it’s a familiar place to the former high school swimmer Chandler Halderson — close to his favorite swimming hole where he was photographed a year earlier, holding a large knife.

Law enforcement throughout Dane County searched the wooded area.

Erin Moriarty: And how long was he here?

Det. Brian Shunk: Forty-five minutes, I believe.

Det. Brian Shunk: And just keep in mind, in July … it was definitely far thicker than what you’re seeing here now.

Still no sign of Krista Halderson, but search teams refused to give up.

Det. Sabrina Sims: “Let’s go hit one more area” and that was where they ended up discovering the remains.

Erin Moriarty: And what exactly did they find there?

Det. Brian Shunk: They ended up findin’ two legs – cut into different sections.

Bart and Krista Halderson
The remains of Bart Halderson were discovered at a farm located about 20 miles away from the Halderson home. Krista’s remains were found in a remote area near the Wisconsin River.

Maria Falconer


DNA tests confirmed it was Krista Halderson. The concerned son who had reported his mom and dad missing was now charged with both of their murders.  Krista’s cousins were horrified.

Barbi Townsend:  You couldn’t write this. … it just wasn’t anything that you could possibly come up with in your head.

Erin Moriarty:  How do you make sense of it?

Barbi Townsend: We don’t. And that’s the hard part. We don’t have a why.

In January of 2022, at the Dane County Courthouse, Chandler Halderson went on trial for the murder of his parents. He was also facing charges for lying to the police and for mutilating and hiding their bodies.

ADA WILLIAM BROWN: Our job is to, over the course of the next couple of weeks, present evidence to show you the path of what we believed happened –

ADA WILLIAM BROWN: That Chandler Halderson killed his parents, dismembered their bodies and hid them around southern Wisconsin.

Chandler Halderson trial
In January 2022, Chandler Halderson went on trial for the murder of his parents. He was also facing charges for lying to the police and for mutilating and hiding their bodies.

WISC


Prosecutors laid out a motive. They say Chandler murdered his parents when his lies were about to be exposed and that for months, he had been trying to hide the truth from them.

Among the evidence: those fake e-mail accounts he created.

ADA ANDREA RAYMOND (in court): No one uses a Gmail account as their official Madison College email?

KATE JOCHIMSEN | MADISON COLLEGE: No.

And his fictious internship with an insurance company

LORI SNAPP | AMERICAN FAMILY INSURANCE (in court): I found no record of that person working for American Family.

Investigators believe the murder weapon was a semi-automatic rifle that had been hidden in a barn at that farm where Bart’s remains were discovered.

The rifle came from Andrew Smith, who testified that he was in the military when he met Halderson online.

ANDREW SMITH (in court): Playing video games, while stationed in Germany, sir.

Halderson had wanted a gun. Smith testified he had no idea what Halderson wanted to do with the weapon, and in June 2021, he gave him that semi-automatic rifle as a gift — and nearly 480 rounds of ammunition.

ANDREW SMITH: I’m going to give it to someone who might actually appreciate this weapon and take care of it.

ADA WILLIAM BROWN: How did Chandler react when you gave him the gun?

ANDREW SMITH: Oh, he was happy.

ADA WILLIAM BROWN: How did you know he was happy … how do you know that?

ANDREW SMITH: Because he had a big smile on his face when I had given it to him as a gift..

But the most anticipated witness in this trial would be Halderson’s girlfriend who gave police that Snapchat screen shot.

ATTORNEY: What is that?

CAT MELLENDER: Screenshot of Chandler by the Wisconsin River.

A JURY DECIDES

For three hours, Cat Mellender, sat on the stand telling the jury about the young man she thought she knew: Chandler Halderson.

ADA WILLIAM BROWN: Did you go on a lot of dates together?

CAT MELLENDER: Yeah, we would grab dinners, um have movie dates … just sit at home and watch movies, go on walks quite often.

Mellender told the jury that she was working on July 1, when authorities believe the murders happened, and didn’t see her boyfriend in person that day.

ADA WILLIAM BROWN: You weren’t with him?

CAT MELLENDER: I was not with him. 

ADA WILLIAM BROWN: Did you know that Bart and Krista Halderson had died?

CAT MELLENDER: No (cries).

According to investigators, Chandler asked Mellender to bring a few cleaning supplies to his home the following day. He told her he’d stepped on some broken glass from the fireplace. She brought him a Swiffer mop and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.

ADA WILLIAM BROWN: Cat, did you have absolutely anything to do with cleaning anything up or their disappearance?

CAT MELLENDER:  No.

Investigators say there is no evidence that Mellender had any involvement in the murders. They believe Chandler Halderson acted alone. Prosecutors showed the jury police video from inside the Halderson home. At first glance, it seemed neat and clean, but test results revealed what appeared to be blood.

halderson-luminol.jpg
A forensic expert testified that there appeared to be blood in the basement of the Halderson home. The expert also told the jury there appeared to be evidence of a cleanup. 

Dane County Clerk of Courts


ATTORNEY: Is that all blood that it’s reacting to?  

OFFICER: This could be blood that it’s reacting to, and it appears to be some wiping or clean up.

For Barbi Townsend, the most disturbing part was when the jury was shown a view of the Halderson home from a neighbor’s security camera.

Barbi Townsend: I was talking to one of my cousins. We said one of the images that is gonna be seared in our minds is when they showed that video of the window. … And it was the flickering glow from the fireplace, for like hours. that is haunting, knowing what was happening,

A forensic expert testified more than 200 bone fragments were discovered in the fireplace.

ATTORNEY: there’s a white area in the middle of that base.

FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGIST: Based on my training and experience that appears to be bone.

Halderson’s defense attorney Catherine Dorl did not address the bone and blood evidence found in the home but insisted that did not mean her client was the killer.

CATHERINE DORL: Chandler Halderson did not murder his parents. He is not guilty of those crimes.

She reminded the jury there were too many unanswered questions.

CATHERINE DORL: What happened to the Haldersons?  What happened in the Halderson’s home? … You just are not going to know what happened.

Chandler Halderson himself didn’t testify and his defense didn’t call any witnesses.

Instead, defense attorney Crystal Vera, closed the case, and urged the jury to find reasonable doubt. She admits Chandler told a lot of lies, but she argues there isn’t enough direct evidence to tie him to the murders.

CRYSTAL VERA: You have to go back and look at everything.

CRYSTAL VERA: I guarantee you that the 12 of you that are going to go back and deliberate are all gonna have 12 different theories on what happened. And that’s a problem. I’m asking you to find him not guilty of first-degree intentional homicide.

Prosecutors had the final word.

ADA WILLIAM BROWN: This is a first-degree intentional homicide. You cannot shoot someone in the back, you cannot chop them up, you cannot scatter their remains and come to any other conclusion. And there is only one person who did those things here and that is Chandler Halderson. We’re asking you to find him guilty. Thank you.

It didn’t take long for the jury to decide.

JUDGE JOHN D. HYLAND (reading verdict): “We the jury find the defendant Chandler M. Halderson guilty of first-degree intentional homicide as to Bart A. Halderson. Guilty of providing false information. Guilty of mutilating a corpse. Guilty of first-degree intentional homicide. Guilty of mutilating a corpse. Guilty of hiding a corpse.”

Guilty on all eight charges.

Det. Sabrina Sims: I think it was just overwhelming … from all the work that we put in on it.

In March 2022, at his sentencing hearing, Chandler Halderson, who had been silent during his trial, surprised everyone by indicating he finally had something to say.

JUDGE JOHN D. HYLAND: Mr. Halderson wishes to make a statement.

CHANDLER HALDERSON (addressing the court): Your Honor, I want to take this opportunity to state my intent to appeal my convictions. If there are any lawyers listening and willing to take on my appeal, take a moment to please reach out to me. It’s not that I do not have feelings, it is that I was warned to not show them due to the scrutiny of this case. Thank you.

Erin Moriarty: What was your reaction when he had the chance to speak and all he did was ask for a lawyer to take an appeal? What was your reaction?

Barbi Townsend: I was actually disgusted. I just couldn’t believe it. Like, you can’t even say I’m sorry.

Chandler was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Erin Moriarty: When do you miss ’em?

Dan Kroninger: Oh, I think about ’em just about every day.

Erin Moriarty: Really?

Dan Kroninger: Yeah … we’re building a pond in our backyard or … and just, you know, they would love to see that, and love be a part of it.

Mitchell Halderson, Bart and Krista’s oldest son, is now living with an unimaginable loss. Barbi Townsend shared a text and a photo that Krista sent to family just three months before she died

Barbi Townsend (reading text): “Happy Easter. Yes, the boys and their women . Mitchell is still at Epic Systems and will turn 25 this year. Yikes. … Chandler is currently interning with American Family Insurance as an IT administrator. But his other degree, sustainability management, has given him an edge …”

halderson-easter.jpg
“Happy Easter. Yes, the boys and their women,” Krista Halderson texted to relatives.

Barbi Townsend


Barbi Townsend: You see in her text how proud she was of her boys … and how 100 percent completely believing Chandler.

She can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Chandler had just been honest with everyone.

Erin Moriarty: If he had just gone and thrown himself at the mercy of his parents, what do you think Krista and Bart would have done?

Barbi Townsend: They would have helped him. … they definitely would have confronted him on it. But after the confrontation and the truth telling, would have come to grace. “How do we go forward? How do we help you? How do we get your life back on track?” They would’ve helped him.

In April 2023, two of Chandler Halderson’s convictions related to hiding his parents’ corpses were vacated on procedural grounds. He continues to serve a life sentence with no possibility of parole for the murder and dismemberment of his parents.  

Her has filed an appeal.


Produced by Marcelena Spencer. Iris Carreras is the field producer. David Dow is the development producer. Mike McHugh and Greg McLaughlin are the editors. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.

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