Prosecutors show images of dismembered body in Chandler Halderson trial
MADISON, Wis. — Jurors in Chandler Halderson’s homicide trial saw several images of a dismembered torso later identified as Bart Halderson as the trial entered its third day Wednesday morning.
The photos, which were taken by investigators at a farm in rural Cottage Grove on July 8 showed a path of trampled vegetation in the woods, a log that appeared to have moss scraped off by something, and a pile of sticks beyond the log.
Dane County Sheriff’s Office detective Brent Baverstock testified there was something that “wasn’t natural” under the pile of sticks, so he moved closer.
“I didn’t know what it was at first. It took me a while to process what I was seeing,” Baverstock said. “Then it became obvious that I was looking at a human torso.”
Jurors saw images of the torso covered with the sticks, then more graphic photos once investigators carefully removed the pile on top of the human remains. The photos showed a shirtless male torso with the arms and head removed, with pants and a belt still on. There was also a rope tied around the torso.
It was confirmation of a red flag Baverstock said he noticed as he pulled onto the property to investigate — vultures circling over that area of the woods. Baverstock said the human remains had begun to decompose. Investigators did notice some kind of wound in the middle of the back.
News 3 Now made the editorial decision not to show the graphic images on live streams or on air.
The Dane County Medical Examiner’s Office would later identify the torso as belonging to Bart Halderson, leading to Chandler Halderson being charged with first-degree intentional homicide, mutilating a corpse, hiding a corpse and lying to authorities about a missing person.
Rifle found months later
The owner of the property, Cresent L’Sai, is dating the mother of Chandler Halderson’s girlfriend at the time. She testified that while Chandler had been at the property several times before, he never showed up alone until the morning of Monday, July 5.
She says Chandler told her he was upset about some bad news he got from his doctor that he said meant he wouldn’t be able to take a job in Florida, and he asked to use her pool. L’Sai’s girlfriend, Dulce Mellender, arrived later, and when they went up to the pool area on the property, Chandler was nowhere to be found and the pool cover was still on. They saw the Subaru Chandler had driven that day in the distance, past a shed and parked along the woodline with the hatchback open.
The two women went over to try to figure out what Chandler was doing, but didn’t see him near the car. They eventually gave up looking and went back to the pool.
L’Sai says she was not wearing a top in the swimming pool when Chandler approached from the distance, no longer wearing the shirt he had been wearing before. Chandler allegedly asked the women if he could join them in the pool, which both women testified was awkward given L’Sai was not wearing a top and it was a situation that Chandler normally would have avoided. They say he dunked his body in the pool a few times and seemed to wash water over himself before eventually leaving, walking back to where he had parked the Subaru along the woodline and driving off.
Investigators later found a plastic Target bag filled with rags that were covered in a red substance disposed near where L’Sai leaves out her garbage and recycling. She testified that she did not put the bag there.
Months later, L’Sai said she was cleaning out the shed in the middle of October when she came across a set of boards propped up against the wall. Behind the boards, she found a rifle she had never seen before. L’Sai testified that she felt “sick to her stomach” when she picked up the rifle to examine it. After asking her father if it was his, she immediately called police. L’Sai testified that the shed was not locked on the day Chandler had come over to the property, although defense attorneys questioned her how frequently the shed was locked.
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