‘That’s not my best friend:’ Family friends dispute version of events described by Chandler Halderson

MADISON, Wis. — Friends of Bart and Krista Halderson testified Wednesday morning that the version of events Chandler Halderson provided to police about what his parents were doing would have been completely out of character for the people they have known for decades.

Chandler Halderson allegedly told authorities and several family friends that his father and mother had taken a large amount of cash and alcohol and had left with another couple he didn’t know to “go blow off some steam.”

Best Friends Take the Stand

Prosecutors called members of the Hilgendorf family to the witness stand on Wednesday morning. Jane Hilgendorf said she first met Krista Halderson in middle school and they had been best friends since their freshman year at East High School in Madison more than 30 years ago. She testified she thought it was unusual that Krista Halderson had apparently not shown up to work on Friday, July 2 without calling in.

“That’s not my best friend,” Jane Hilgendorf said she thought to herself at the time.

She says she immediately tried to call Krista and Bart Halderson, with both calls going straight to voicemail. Her next call was to the Halderson’s oldest son, Mitchell, who said he hadn’t heard that his mother did not show up to work. Her fourth call was to Chandler, who said all he knew was they loaded up cash and alcohol and left with another couple.

Jane Hilgendorf testified that neither Krista nor Bart were drinkers, at most having one beer when they would get together. She also said it didn’t make sense that they would leave with a large amount of cash, since Bart was a CPA and was “very tight with their money.”

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Jane says her worries were calmed a bit when Chandler Halderson said he had received a text from Krista saying they reached their cabin in Langlade County safely over the holiday weekend. On the following Wednesday, her worries increased again when Chandler called her saying Bart and Krista hadn’t returned home. Jane and her husband, Michael, then left the cottage they were staying at to head to the Halderson’s cabin, which was about 88 miles away.

Jane and Michael Hilgendorf both testified that when they got to the Halderson’s cabin, the grass outside was more than a foot tall, and none of the grass was disturbed, telling them that no one had been there anytime recently. When they called Chandler to let them know they didn’t see anything, Jane and Michael both said that he asked them if they found bullet casings or blood anywhere — a question that had shocked Jane.

“Your parents are missing, why aren’t you letting them anywhere near your phone?”

The Hilgendorfs’ twin daughters, Hailey and Hanna, were also called to testify about Chandler Halderson’s demeanor after he had reported Bart and Krista missing.

They said they decided to drive up to the Halderson home to check on Chandler and see how he was doing, because their families were so close, and Krista would have done the same thing for them if their parents were the ones missing. When they got to the home, they almost immediately noticed something was off about the situation — starting with the way he had hugged them at the front door.

Both said that Chandler had given them a “side hug” instead of the full embrace they were accustomed to. Chandler was described as the “warmer” of the two Halderson brothers, but Hailey and Hanna said his demeanor that day was “weird,” beyond just being stressed about his parents being missing.

MORE: Full coverage of the Chandler Halderson homicide investigation and trial — live stream, previous stories, timelines and interviews

They also testified that they noticed some unusual things in the Halderson home while they were visiting, including a table in the kitchen that was turned over on its side and some furniture in the basement that had been covered.

One of the biggest red flags that stuck in their mind, they said, was when Chandler was talking about detectives wanting to look at text messages on his phone. They said Chandler told them that if an officer ever wanted to see your phone, you should not hand it over to them, but instead give them screenshots of everything they would need. Both women said that struck them as an odd comment, since they thought he should be willing to do whatever it took to help police find his parents.

Hanna said that she eventually felt uncomfortable in the home and did not feel very safe.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m sitting in the middle of what feels like a crime scene with somebody who is acting differently than I’m used to, and it just doesn’t feel like a good idea,” Hannah Hilgendorf said.

The twins said they eventually left the home and checked in with Chandler later via text message.

Recorded conversation with neighbor

Former Madison Police Department detective Kevin Linsmeier lives across the street from the Halderson home. He says Chandler walked up to his door at about 8:30 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, July 8, asking if the Ring video doorbell Linsmeier had would have shown anything happening across the street.

Linsmeier said he thought it might, and invited Chandler to go talk with him in the garage. On his way there, Linsmeier says he had a gut feeling that he should record the conversation.

“I suspected something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what,” Linsmeier said, noting that he saw multiple squad cars parked outside the Halderson home for much of the day the day before — a sign that something bigger than a routine call was going on.

 

Linsmeier started recording audio on his phone before meeting Chandler in the garage and talking with him for several minutes. Halderson was recorded asking if Linsmeier’s Ring doorbell would have caught anyone coming or going from the previous Thursday night into Friday morning — the timeframe he allegedly told authorities his parents left for the cabin. Linsmeier said he didn’t know how to work the software that well, but said his wife could take a look at the files.

In the conversation, Linsmeier also identified himself as a recently retired officer (having retired in early May 2021), and gave Chandler Halderson some advice on how to stay engaged in the search for his parents, saying the best thing he could do is stay in constant contact with the detective assigned to the case.