Chandler Halderson

Dropout son chopped up his parents – then burned their heads in the fireplace

Bart and Krista Halderson were very proud of their son and his promising career. Chandler had told them all about his studies at a technical college and his work with the local police on their scuba diving team – and now he’d secured a job with SpaceX, the pioneering spaceflight company founded by Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk.

It meant 23-year-old Halderson would have to move out of the home he’d shared with his parents in Windsor, Wisconsin, and move to Florida. But the whole family were excited about him getting the fantastic opportunity.

It was 2021 and there was lots of talk at home about Halderson’s future. Bart, 50, was an accountant and had always supported his son. Halderson had been a Scout and Bart had got involved by becoming a Scout den leader. His son was also a keen swimmer and Bart had gone along to his training sessions.

Krista, 53, loved being a mum to Halderson and her other son, Mitchell, who’d left home. Her friends said she dazzled people with her positivity – and was always encouraging Halderson on his road to success.

She and Bart had been thrilled when he had secured a place at Madison Area Technical College. He’d tell them all about his studies and the jobs he was doing alongside his classes.

His strong swimming abilities had apparently led to him working on the police scuba team and he also held down a job at an insurance firm, which he was doing remotely due to the pandemic.

Bart often questioned his son about why he wasn’t paying rent, but Halderson said there had been a mix-up with his wages. He even showed his dad emails from HR claiming to be sorting out the problem.

Halderson, left, with his dad and his brother, Mitchell



Then, in June, Halderson told them he had got the job at SpaceX in Florida, announcing that he and his girlfriend would move there. He said he had already sorted a flat. But then, suddenly, there was a question mark over whether Halderson could take the job.

He started wearing a neck brace and said he’d fallen down some stairs, suffering concussion. The head injury meant he didn’t feel he was able to take the position after all, due to problems with driving and flying.

There was also a delay from the college with documentation about his qualifications, so Bart jumped in to try to help. He started emailing Halderson’s college to get to the bottom of the delay, desperate to secure his son’s extraordinary new job.

Unemployed dropout

After feeling like he was being ignored, Bart phoned the college – and he was stunned to be informed that Halderson had only attended for a while before dropping out. The staff he claimed to have been talking to on email didn’t exist – he had faked it all.

When Bart confronted his son, Halderson told him they had a meeting on 1 July to get to the bottom of things – but, again, this turned out to be fake. There must have been a great deal of questions raised in the household as the reality that Halderson’s entire life was a web of lies began to sink in.

The truth was that he’d dropped out of college and had always been unemployed. He never worked for the police or at the insurance company – and he was certainly never offered a job at SpaceX.

Halderson had been getting up for meetings that didn’t exist and spending all day at home playing video games, while telling his parents the impressive details of a fictitious life. He had set up fake email accounts for the college and the HR staff supposedly helping him over his pay so that he could email Bart. He even had a burner phone – a cheap, pre-paid mobile you can destroy or discard when no longer needed – to fake calls.

As the bogus college appointment loomed, Halderson’s life started to unravel. Then, on 7 July, he reported his parents missing. He said they had gone to their riverside cabin in north Wisconsin for the weekend but not returned. No one had seen them since 1 July.

A search began and the police started to question Halderson. His story didn’t add up and he wasn’t too willing to help. He said his parents were going with another couple but he didn’t know who. He also said they went to watch a parade – but there wasn’t one.

Halderson was arrested for being obstructive and witnesses placed him at a rural property, which he’d parked at before going into the woods. Police went to the site and made a gruesome discovery – Bart’s torso. Back at the Halderson home, officers found human bone fragments in the fireplace and cutting tools covered in the DNA of his parents. Halderson was charged with Bart’s first-degree murder, hiding a corpse and mutilating a corpse.

Then, on 14 July, body parts were found alongside the Wisconsin river. They were Krista’s legs. The rest of her body and Bart’s remains would never be found. Halderson was also charged with her murder.

Police determined that Halderson had shot his dad in the back at their home on 1 July. He had then killed his mum when she returned.

Bart and Krista were taken in by their son’s lies



With only Krista’s legs found, it was impossible to determine her cause of death.

He had dismembered their bodies with a saw and scissors before trying to burn them in the family fireplace. The ashes in the fireplace contained fragments of human skull, facial bones and knee bones.

Halderson had dumped Krista’s limbs along the Wisconsin River and Bart’s torso at the rural property. His mobile placed him at both locations where his parents’ body parts were found and he was seen buying ice at petrol stations – presumably in an effort to slow the decomposition of the remains.

His internet history showed that after the killing, he searched for “Wisconsin dismembered body found”, even before his parents had been discovered. When it came to a motive, the exposure of Halderson’s lies was top of the list. He was hours away from having to go to the college with his dad. But there was no evidence Bart and Krista had threatened to throw him out, disown him – or be anything but supportive. It seemed like a senseless reason for a brutal double murder.

The actions of a coward

At the trial in January this year, the prosecution said Halderson had killed his parents because his web of lies had been exposed. There was mounting pressure to start paying rent – ​​and they said the SpaceX job had been a desperate final lie.

“The best way out of your pretend job is an even more pretend job,” the prosecutor said. “He’s gonna be an astronaut. He had two options – own up to his lies, stand up and finally tell the truth for once or, like a coward, shoot your father in the back – and that’s exactly what happened.”

The jury heard how Bart and Krista’s bodies had been cut up and set on fire. “He had burned his parents’ heads in the fireplace,” the prosecution said.

While Halderson had pleaded not guilty, he didn’t take the stand to explain or deny his actions. His defense said that while he was a liar, he was just a “normal kid” who liked video games and being with his girlfriend. “Chandler Halderson did not murder his parents,” they said.

The cabin in north Wisconsin



But the prosecution said that after the death of his parents, he had not displayed one moment of grievance. Throughout his jail calls and messages, which police had access to, he hadn’t mourned at all – and they said that was “unique” in their experience.

Neighbours’ security cameras had captured which vehicles came and went on 1 July – the day that Bart and Halderson were due to go to the college. Bart had texted his son that day just before the supposed meeting, saying, “I’m ready whenever you are.” It was the last time he used his phone. Then, Halderson messaged his mum saying Bart’s phone had died and could she bring him back a soda. “OK I can,” Krista replied, with a smiley face.

“We know that Bart and Krista went into that home and never came out, at least as whole people,” the prosecution told the court.

They said that solving a case was like putting a jigsaw together and Halderson “had eight days to spread pieces of that puzzle all over Wisconsin”.

The jury found Halderson guilty on two counts each of first-degree murder, mutilating a corpse, hiding a corpse and giving false information about a missing person. He tried to get out of appearing at his sentencing, but the judge denied his request.

In March this year, Halderson, now 24, faced his sentencing and spoke briefly to say he would appeal, then tried to explain his cold behavior during the trial. “It’s not that I do not have feelings, it’s that I was warned to not show them in the scrutiny of this case,” he said.

Halderson’s grandmother said she still loved him and, while his acts were “horrific”, she hoped he would find a trade in prison and be released one day. The judge said he couldn’t be that forgiving and had to protect the public with a harsh sentence.

“I have to ensure the only time Mr Halderson comes back into the community is to have the privilege of a burial he denied his parents,” he said, before sentencing him to life in jail without the chance of parole.

The extent of Halderson’s lies had been shocking – but nobody could have possibly known just how far the fantasist was willing to go to avoid exposure.

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