MADISON, Wis. — Prosecutors in the Chandler Halderson trial claimed during opening statements Tuesday that the 23-year-old killed his parents after a web of lies about college and work were possibly exposed.
Dane Co. Assistant District Attorney William Brown said he will seek to prove that Chandler Halderson had consistently lied to his parents about getting a degree and work when they had pressed him about earning money and paying rent.
“The evidence in this case, you’ll find, is overwhelming,” Brown said. “Chandler Halderson killed his parents on July 1, 2021. He cut up their bodies with axes and saws and knives, and he didn’t even give them the dignity of having a funeral or even a final resting place in one piece or together.”
Halderson allegedly claimed that he was going to Madison College and was working at American Family Insurance, although prosecutors say records show Halderson did not attend Madison College for more than a semester and nobody at American Family Insurance had a record of him working there. Halderson also allegedly claimed to help on dive units for Madison Police and the Wisconsin DNR, neither of which Brown said has dive units.
Halderson also claimed that he was getting a job at SpaceX and was going to move to Florida, before he suffered a head injury which he claimed left him permanently disabled, including complications like brain bleeds, hematoma, spinal damage, and inability to use his legs.
Prosecutors claimed, though, that Halderson was exaggerating his symptoms and doctors said they treated him for a mild concussion, but there was no need for the neck brace he was photographed wearing in late June, weeks before his parents died. Prosecutors also pointed out surveillance video from a local convenience store showing Halderson carrying two bags of ice with no problems and not wearing the neck brace in early July.
For the first time, prosecutors also gave a look at a possible motive in the murder of Bart and Krista Halderson. Brown said that Chandler Halderson was still living at home, and his parents kept checking in on whether he was on course to graduate from Madison College and making sure he was waking up on time for his supposed meetings at American Family Insurance.
Prosecutors claimed that Chandler would show Bart copies of e-mail chains he allegedly had with various staff members at Madison College inquiring about his status at the college. One of the e-mails included a phone number for Bart Halderson to call, which he did — and allegedly said the person on the other end of the line sounded like his son. Prosecutors said police later traced that call to a “burner” phone that was found in Chandler’s room.
The prosecution also said Bart eventually called Madison College himself and talked to someone at the reception desk — a call that was recorded for customer service purposes. Bart posed as Chandler during the call, eventually finding out that everything his son had told him about his status at Madison College was not true — and none of the people in the e-mails actually worked at Madison College. Prosecutors claim Chandler generated fake identities with GMail addresses and was actually sending the e-mails to himself.
Text message records show that Bart texted Chandler that he had spoken to the person at Madison College.
Prosecutors say Bart and Chandler Halderson had a meeting scheduled at Madison College at 3 p.m. on July 1 to discuss Chandler’s status at the college. Bart texted Chandler “I’m ready whenever you are,” apparently referring to the meeting, about 50 minutes before forensic analysis found Bart would have been killed after being shot in the back.
The prosecution alleges it was Chandler who shot Bart, using a rifle he got from a friend. Text message records show Chandler also texted Krista that afternoon, saying Bart’s phone had died and she should text Chandler if she needed anything. He also requested she stop on the way home from work to get soda — something prosecutors claim was designed to buy him more time before she got home.
Defense stresses presumption of innocence
While prosecutors spent about an hour giving their opening statement, using multiple photos and informational slides to illustrate their case, the defense’s opening statements lasted a little more than 10 minutes and did not include any visual aids.
Attorney Catherine Dorl described Chandler Halderson as a “normal kid” who liked video games and was enjoying life. She also argued that while the prosecution will offer a large amount of detail on what happened before and after the Haldersons went missing, but won’t be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chandler killed his parents.
“The evidence will show you that there is a gap of evidence when it comes to that time frame,” Dorl said. “Your job is to listen to this evidence as jurors, listen to the evidence from the perspective of a juror, not from the perspective of a story corroborator.”
Dorl also reminded jurors of the presumption of innocence everyone is guaranteed as they go on trial.
“Assumption is the mother of all mistakes,” Dorl said. “The story that you just heard assumes that Chandler Halderson killed his parents. You cannot assume anything.”
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