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Chandler Halderson tests positive for COVID-19; trial to be postponed to Jan. 18

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Halderson trial

Chandler Halderson at his trial Tuesday. Prosecutors say he burned his parents' heads in their fireplace, then disposed of the rest of their bodies in rural areas.

Chandler Halderson, who is on trial for allegedly killing and dismembering his parents, Bart and Krista, has tested positive for COVID-19, which will postpone his trial to at least Jan. 18, according to court staff.

Clerk of the Court Carlo Esqueda confirmed that the trial had been delayed. Asked whether Halderson has been infected with COVID-19, District Court Administrator Theresa Owens said Halderson got a positive test result.

“The length of the delay depends upon the resolution of whatever symptoms Mr. Halderson may have, in accordance with (Public Health Madison and Dane County and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance,” Esqueda said.

Wilson Medina, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin State Public Defenders Office, which is representing Halderson, said that a hearing is set for 8:45 a.m. Thursday to assess how the case will move forward.

Owens said the hope is for testimony to resume next week. Esqueda said there is not expected to be a mistrial.

Halderson’s positive test comes the day after the National Guard tested the entire population of the Dane County Jail, which was facing all-time highs of COVID-19 cases last week.

The delay in the murder trial until Jan. 18 was first reported by the Law & Crime Network, which is livestreaming the proceedings.

Tuesday’s proceedings included testimony from a former Dane County detective who lived across the street from the Halderson family. He said he smelled what he thought was a barbecue on the evening prosecutors allege Chandler Halderson burned his parents’ remains after killing and dismembering them earlier that day.

Steven Greiber, who worked at the Dane County District Attorney’s Office for twelve years, told the court that he was in his driveway cleaning radishes after his granddaughter’s softball game when a “burning odor” filled the road, which made him think someone was barbecuing meat over a grill pit.

“For the remainder of the time I was outside it became a pungent smell to the point I walked down the driveway to see if anyone was grilling,” the former detective said.

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Prosecutors allege the source of the smell was Chandler Halderson burning the remains of his parents in a fireplace the evening of July 1 into the early hours of July 2 last year. Halderson then allegedly dumped other remains throughout southern Wisconsin. He faces felony charges for murder, mutilating and hiding corpses and lying to investigators.

Prosecutors say Chandler committed the murders at home on July 1 after his father discovered he’d been lying about attending Madison Area Technical College — one of a series of lies prosecutors say he’d long been telling everyone, including that he worked for American Family Insurance, aerospace company SpaceX and as a scuba diver. In reality, they say, Halderson was unemployed and had dropped out of school.

Chandler Halderson


Security footage

Jurors on Tuesday also saw footage from the home security camera of a different Halderson neighbor, Colin Lynch, which prosecutors said showed light from a fire in the fireplace coming through a window in the Halderson home for hours.

Dane County Detective Scott Kuntz, who specializes in audiovisual forensics, collected the footage from Lynch who lives across a pond from the Halderson home in the town of Windsor. The footage shown to jurors depicts a continuous “flickering light” in the direction of the Halderson residence until nearly 4 a.m. on July 2.

To determine whether the light was coming from the window near the fireplace, Kuntz had a deputy wave a 4-foot piece of steel with LED lights attached to it in front of the home’s backyard windows. While filming through the same home security camera, the lights appeared similar to the light picked up from the window near the fireplace, Kuntz testified.

Missing couple Bart and Krista Halderson

Bart and Krista Halderson

“The conclusion was clear to me that the flickering light from July 2 was coming from the fireplace window, the window closest to the fireplace,” Kuntz said.

Halderson’s attorney, Catherine Dorl, declined to cross-examine any witnesses called by the prosecution Tuesday morning.

Bill Boswell, a special agent with the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Arson Bureau who examined the Halderson’s fireplace, later testified Tuesday that he noted a smell like grilled meat in the fireplace. His examination of the fireplace also recovered pieces of bone and documented extensive discoloration to the fireplace’s interior.

Other testimony

On Monday, jurors had seen evidence collected from the Halderson home and from the hobby farm where the headless torso of his father was found, including the rifle they believe Halderson used to kill his father and the shoe where he’d hidden both his parents’ phones and driver’s licenses.

The dozens of photos and pieces of physical evidence introduced Monday also included three rifle magazines containing 55 rounds of ammunition, a bullet fragment and casing, and an ax with human blood on it — all of which were found in the Haldersons’ Windsor home.

In afternoon testimony on Tuesday, Dane County Deputy Medical Examiner Cori Breslauer said three gunshot wounds were identified on Bart’s torso during an evaluation of the body. The presence of gunpowder soot around one of the bullet holes led Breslauer to conclude that the shot had been fired at close range.

Breslauer also concluded that Bart died from gunshot wounds and had not been alive at the time of his dismemberment.

Additional evidence introduced Tuesday included surveillance footage of Chandler buying a tarp at a Fleet Farm in DeForest.

A pair of tarps stained with reddish brown substance were found by investigators at the property were Bart’s torso was found. One tarp found in a garbage can in the property’s wood had blood on it that matched Krista, Denise Jones, a senior forensic analyst at the Wisconsin State Crime Lab, testified Tuesday.

Deputy Erik Schneider testified Monday that after finding Bart Halderson’s torso he found several items on the property used for sawing and cutting, including a bolt cutter and saw blade, inside an old oil tank.

State Journal reporters Emily Hamer, Chris Rickert and Ed Treleven contributed to this report.


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