How Not To Get Away With Murder: Chandler Halderson And His Dumb Web Of Lies
Any good true crime story takes us on a stroll down the darkest alleys of the human mind; to put ourselves in the mind of a killer and try to figure out how they did it and why. And then there are stories like this one, where every answer we seek about the killer’s motives and plans for getting away with it only leaves us with more questions, and nearly all of those questions are “Wait, what the hell?!?”
Friends, family, and co-workers of Bart and Krista Halderson were shocked by news of their sudden disappearance in July 2021. But over the course of one week, investigators kept uncovering clues that only made the case more confusing… and ultimately more gruesome than anyone could imagine. To this day, there are many details we just don’t know because the only man who knows what truly happened isn’t talking. And even if he did, there’s no reason to believe a single word that comes out of his mouth ...
One Strange Phone Call
June 29, 2021. Omar Jobe, an enrollment coordinator at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin, received a phone call. It was one of those phone calls that anyone who’s ever worked in customer service knows all too well. Someone calls in with a problem they need rectified, and the more you try to help them out, the more it becomes obvious they must be doing something wrong on their end. You try to calmly explain to them why you can’t give them exactly what they’re asking for, but you’re only making them more frustrated and you know they’re just one no away from them biting your head off.
The man Omar was speaking to that day said his name was Chandler Halderson and that he was having trouble getting a copy of his school transcript and had not yet received his diploma after graduating the previous semester. Chandler had been trying to use the online portal on the college’s website, but every time it would not complete the request. He then said that he had been emailing back and forth with a couple of school administrators, Alyssa Brandt and Daniel Speith, and had been getting nothing but excuses. Omar did not recognize either of those names.
So, to get to the bottom of this problem, Omar looked up Chandler’s file on his end. The first problem he saw is that Chandler still had an outstanding tuition balance of over $2,000. The second issue is that the system showed that Chandler had not only not graduated, he hadn’t taken any classes at the school since the fall of 2020. This should’ve been the point of the phone call where you’d expect Chandler to go nuclear. But instead, he calmly said, “Okay, that should do it then… Okay, thank you for your help.” And then he hung up.
Omar Jobe would soon recognize the name Chandler Halderson again because, over the following week and a half, Chandler’s name would be all over the news for all of the worst reasons. And little did Omar know that one strange phone call was what might have set off this horrible chain of events.
The Original Timeline
To hear him tell it, Chandler Halderson seemed to have a lot going for him-- prior to June 2021, that is. He was 23 years old, a recent college graduate, and had been working remotely at home for an insurance company. He also volunteered with the local police department as a part of their scuba search team. He was still living at home with his parents, but he soon had plans to move to Florida with his girlfriend so he could accept a job offer from SpaceX.
Unfortunately, in early June, he had taken a nasty spill down a flight of stairs that ended with a concussion and required him to wear a neck brace. He was suffering from headaches, tingling in his extremities, and frequently feeling lightheaded. The doctors had told Chandler that if these symptoms worsened, he might have to go in for brain surgery. He was also strongly discouraged from any long-distance travel until he had fully recovered. This resulted in him canceling the move to Florida and losing the SpaceX job.
On July 1, Chandler’s parents, Bart and Krista Halderson, left on a trip to their cabin in Langlade County, about a three-hour drive north of their home in Windsor, Wisconsin. They left early in the morning before Chandler had woken up. They were picked up by a couple of friends who were going on the trip with them, only Chandler could not recall who those friends were.
That Sunday morning, Krista sent Chandler a text message informing him that they had decided to stick around to catch the Fourth of July parade in White Lake and that they’d be back home on Monday night or Tuesday morning at the latest. When the couple had not returned by Wednesday morning (July 7), Chandler filed missing person reports with the police.
With the exception of his age, living with his parents, the missing persons report, and maybe even the fall down the stairs, it turns out every part of that story contained more horse crap than the Kentucky Derby. We already know Chandler hadn’t graduated college. He was not working remotely for the insurance company; that was just an excuse for him to sit alone in his room all day playing video games. Hell, he wasn’t even a certified scuba diver, and the local police didn’t even have a scuba search team.
The SpaceX job offer never actually happened, but he still had made plans to move to Florida and take his girlfriend with him. What he planned to do once he got there and didn’t have that job, we’ll never know. You could say the neck injury really saved his ass on that lie-Oh, but the neck injury was bs as well. He may have suffered a mild concussion, but given the web of lies that had been discovered, many suspect that he faked the whole thing. He did go to the hospital, and his doctor did give him the neck brace as a precaution to wear only if he felt he needed it. So, Chandler wore it all the time to milk every bit of sympathy out of everyone around him.
It was ballsy in and of itself for Chandler to have crafted this massive web of lies, but what he had to do to maintain it for so long was next level. His parents started getting suspicious after they noticed that he had been “working” so hard for that insurance company, but Chandler was still broke all the time. So he blamed it all on a glitch with the company’s payroll software, and as soon as they got it all cleared up, he would be receiving all of his back pay. Chandler would create fake email addresses for his fake employers and basically correspond with himself to back up his lies whenever his parents would ask to see proof.
He did the same thing with the college. Alyssa Brandt and Daniel Speith, the two school administrators Chandler had been emailing with regarding his transcripts and diploma, had both been digital figments of his imagination. Chandler even went so far as to buy burner phones and included the numbers in the email signatures. He wasn’t just letting it go to voicemail if his parents called, either. He even took calls with his parents pretending to be these people. Chandler was practically putting more effort into faking everything than he would if he just went to school and/or got an actual job.
Now, if all this seems to be a little at odds with the story of the June 29 phone call with Omar Jobe, it’s because Omar was not speaking with Chandler Halderson that day. Bart Halderson had been growing suspicious of the emails his son had been forwarding him about the school and his “job.” No surprise, Chandler was pretty sloppy. For example, this Alyssa Brandt character from the school couldn’t decide whether or not her last name ended in t. Also, Tom Sellsnick, one of the fake people Chandler had created from the insurance company, listed his title as Human Recourses Specialist.
So, Bart pretended to be Chandler to get some answers from the school himself. After that phone call, Bart told Chandler he had made an in-person appointment at the school for July 1st, and both of them would go down there to get everything straightened out. The last thing Bart had texted his son Chandler was around 2:15 pm on July 1st: “I’m ready when you are.” Shortly thereafter, the health app on Bart Halderson’s iPhone stopped recording data, and that’s the best information authorities had in determining Bart’s time of death.
Chandler then texted his mom: "Dad's phone died,” which was already a cruelly ironic choice of words, but then he followed that with, “Text or call and get soda on your way home, I've got an extra hour of work." According to cell phone tower data, Krista Halderson arrived home at around 5:12 pm, and only Chandler Halderson really knows exactly what happened next.
How He Got Caught
The entire reason Chandler Halderson found himself in this mess in the first place was that his already flimsy house of lies was starting to crumble around him. Now that he had raised the stakes to double homicide, he had to invent more lies to try to cover his tracks. Two problems with this: 1) It’s really hard for a horrible storyteller to control the narrative, and 2) a lot of mistakes are gonna be made when someone whose life was going nowhere finds himself in a rush.
Given what we’ve told you so far (and that we wouldn’t be talking about him otherwise), it’s obvious that wasn’t gonna be able to outsmart authorities for long. In fact, it only took about 32 hours from the moment Chandler filed the missing person reports on his parents for him to be arrested.
One of the first things the police did to investigate Bart and Krista’s disappearance was to go check out the cabin Chandler had said they were going to for the weekend. When they arrived at the cabin, they found that the place looked like no one had been there for some time. There was a fallen tree across the driveway, and the grass was overgrown. The cabin itself was locked up tight as a drum, and once they made it inside, there were zero signs of recent activity. Police also became suspicious about the text message Krista had sent her son on July 4th, saying they were gonna stick around to see the parade in White Lake. That Fourth of July was on a Sunday, and the town of White Lake held its parade on Saturday.
On Monday, July 5th, two days before reporting his parents missing, Chandler had called his girlfriend’s mother to ask if he could come over to swim in her pool. She said she was gonna be away from home for most of the day, but he was welcome to come over. When she returned home, she didn’t see Chandler and the cover was still on the pool. However, she could see his SUV parked way back near the wooded area at the back of the property, and the back hatch was open.
When Chandler emerged from the woods, he appeared rather despondent. When he did finally get into the pool, he didn’t really swim but rather splashed water all over himself like he was just washing himself off. His girlfriend’s mother didn’t think much of it because she knew he had been going through a lot recently (understatement of the century) and didn’t want to pry. But when she received word about the missing person reports, she remembered this strange incident and called the police.
When police arrived at the property, one of the first things they observed was a flock of turkey vultures circling overhead, which they only do when they catch the scent of rotting flesh. Going into the woods, police found what the vultures were looking for. Under a pile of branches, they found a human torso with bullet wounds in the back. No head, no arms, while the legs were cut off mid-thigh and still wearing pants. Whoever did this had dismembered the victim while they were clothed.
Also on the property, they found an SKS rifle stashed away under some wood by the barn, a bloodstained tarp in the woods, and in an old water tank a bunch of cutting tools, scissors, and saw blades also covered in blood. DNA tests later matched the blood to both Bart and Krista Halderson, but just the discovery of this scene was enough cause to arrest Chandler on suspicion of murder.
Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office
What Was Weird at the Time Becomes Horrifying in Hindsight
With Chandler’s arrest, those who had witnessed some of his bizarre behavior over the past week or so started coming forward to share their experiences. One of his neighbors told police about how he had knocked on their doors inquiring about footage from their security cameras. At the time, they chalked it up to him having just reported his parents missing and was curious if the cameras had caught anything going on at his house… But he did get a little nervous when they told him the cops had already retrieved the footage.
Chandler’s girlfriend had told police about how she wanted to hang out with him two days after his parents disappeared, but he said he was too busy with the long list of chores his parents had for him to do. Chores seemed a little out of character for Chandler, but we now know he did have a sudden need to do some deep cleaning. When they made plans to get together the next day, she asked him if there was anything he needed her to get for him, he asked for hydrogen peroxide and to borrow her Swiffer WetJet.
Later, she noticed that he had his location turned on Snapchat, and instead of being at home like he said he was, the app showed him being near the Wisconsin River instead. She caught a screengrab of his location at the time, and when police searched the area, they found what was later identified as Krista Halderson’s complete right leg and her left foot. This and Bart Halderson’s torso were the only body parts that were ever recovered… sorta.
Another one of Chandler’s neighbors testified that on July 1st, he had noticed the strong smell of burning wood in the neighborhood, and after a few minutes, the smell had changed to what he described as “like barbequing a large pork.” Yeah, this is going exactly where you think it is. Security camera footage from a neighbor’s house had a view of the front of Chandler’s house, at least decent to show a flickering light in the living room consistent with that of a fire burning in the fireplace on that night. At around 3:00 am, that light got really bright, as if the fire started to get out of control, only to go out rather suddenly.
From what investigators could tell, while trying to incinerate his parent’s remains in the fireplace, Chandler failed to account for the fact that when fat renders over a fire, it becomes flammable. Based on the burn marks around the fireplace and a broken glass panel on the fireplace screen, it appeared as if the fire almost escaped into the house. It is believed that while putting out the fire, Chandler had cut his foot on the shattered glass, which is why he later asked his girlfriend for hydrogen peroxide.
A total of 230 bone fragments were retrieved from the fireplace’s ash trap. It is believed that after the fireplace broke, Chandler’s little hiking trips through the woods became plan b. We say believed because as soon as Chandler was arrested, he really invoked his right to remain silent and hasn’t said a damn thing about the murders ever since.
Chandler's entire defense strategy really boiled down to how can any of us be sure of anything? His lead attorney got things off to a great start by mispronouncing Chandler’s name as CHANDER a couple of times during her opening statements.
How bad was his defense? Well, we’ve watched enough true crime documentaries to know how guilty someone is by how creatively their lawyer defines reasonable doubt for the jury. Here is an actual quote from the defense counsel speaking to the jury: “Be sure to look for what you're not told because that's evidence just as much as any evidence is.”
It only took the jury two hours to unanimously find him guilty in March 2022, and he was given the maximum sentences allowed on all charges: two counts each of first-degree intentional homicide (life sentence without the possibility of parole), mutilating a corpse (seven years, six months), hiding a corpse (seven years, six months), and providing false information about a missing person (three years). All sentences will be served concurrently.
Chandler Halderson’s lawyers never called any witnesses in his defense, least of all him, which A) isn’t uncommon in a case as heinous as this one, and B) Given everything we’ve learned about him so far, swearing to tell the truth may be completely counterintuitive for Chandler. The only thing Chandler said in court came at his sentencing hearing:
“Your Honor, I want to take this opportunity to state my intention to appeal my convictions. If there are any lawyers listening and willing to take on my appeal, please reach out to me. It's not that I do not have feelings, it's that I was warned to not show them due to the scrutiny of this case. Thank you.”
Dan Fritschie is a writer, comedian, and frequent over-thinker. He can be found on Twitter, and he thanks you for your time.
Top image: Fer Gregory/Shutterstock