Chandler Halderson once appeared, by all accounts, to be an ambitious, successful and charming young man.
For instance, the 23-year-old allegedly boasted to his girlfriend that SpaceX had hired him.
The college drop-out also told his loved ones he was a former police scuba diver, a gainfully employed insurance worker, and a college engineering student with aspirations to move to Florida with his girlfriend.
Wisconsin prosecutors told a jury this week that it was all an “amazing web of lies,” which they described as a “comically fake” life (or lives) that ultimately led Halderson to shoot, kill and dismember his parents, Bart Halderson and Krista Halderson, in July 2021.
Dane County prosecutors painted Halderson as a compulsive liar and sociopath in opening statements on Tuesday, saying his obsessive fixation with maintaining his alleged fictitious double-life fueled both the double-murder of his parents and the subsequent unsuccessful attempts to cover it up.
Photo: Dane County Sheriff's Office
“How does this happen, how does this kid with everything in the world going for him — promising new job, school, a girlfriend that loves him, willing to move across the country for him — how does this happen?" Dane County Assistant District Attorney William Brown asked jurors. “Well, it happens because none of these things are true.”
In lurid and grimly precise detail, Assistant District Attorney William Brown spent over an hour laying out the county’s case against Halderson for the jury, according to trial minutes obtained by Oxygen.com.
Halderson's defense team, led by Dane County public defender Catherine Dorl, meanwhile, rested after a brief opening statement totaling roughly 15 minutes.
Prosecutors, who have tapped more than 200 people to provide potential court testimony, then questioned 12 separate witnesses on the stand Tuesday, many of them law enforcement and case investigators.
Halderson’s legal team cross-examined only a fraction of those witnesses and Halderson sat stoically for much of the proceedings, quietly staring at his lap as the jury listened to the damning accusations and witness testimony against him.
In early July, prosecutors said, Halderson gunned down his father, Bart Halderson, after the father learned that his son's true enrollment status at Madison College — he wasn't enrolled — where the younger man claimed to have been studying renewable resource engineering. The younger Halderson later killed his 53-year-old mother, Krista Halderson.
His father’s remains were initially found on a rural property in Cottage Grove on July 8, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com. Krista Halderson’s dismembered leg was later discovered on the banks of the Wisconsin River.
Photo: Dane County Sheriff's Office
A day before the gruesome finds, Chandler Halderson had reported both his parents missing, initially telling law enforcement the couple had left their home in Windsor, Wisconsin with an “unknown acquaintance” on July 1. He claimed they’d traveled to the family’s cabin in White Lake.
Halderson was subsequently charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, mutilating a corpse, hiding a corpse and providing false information to police regarding his parents' whereabouts.
Following his arrest on July 8, Halderson cryptically told detectives he “‘didn’t feel bad about what [he] did,’” the case’s amended complaint stated.
This week, prosecutors told jurors that Halderson conspired to cremate his parents’ mutilated remains, ultimately depositing their body parts at several locations throughout southern Wisconsin. Fragments of a human skull were also found in the home’s family fireplace, Brown said.
Prosecutors warned jurors they could expect to see roughly 100 body parts throughout the trial.
“That’s why we’re here for a couple weeks,” Brown said prior to concluding his opening statement. “You're going to see terrible photographs…I suspect many of you have never seen anything like you're going to see in this coming case.”
Prosecutors said that, despite his stories, Halderson was actually an unemployed college dropout, who lived with — and mooched off — Bart and Krista Halderson. To placate his father — an accountant who frequently quizzed him on his career aspirations — the younger Halderson invented a fake job with American Family Insurance after flunking out of Madison College.
“But he never made any money,” Brown said. “His father was an accountant, pretty much daily, 'Why don’t you have any money? Why haven’t you paid any rent?’ And Chandler spun an amazing web of lies.”
The jobless Wisconsin man allegedly went so far as to craft fake email exchanges with the company — even inventing a human resources contact with a fake email address — transcripts of which he shared with his father in order to explain why the company hadn’t paid him. Brown told jurors Halderson had claimed to have worked for the company for approximately one year.
“These emails would go back and forth with Chandler and the HR person, and eventually he’d forward them to his father,” Brown explained. “Having a fake job solves a lot of riddles in your life. No one’s hassling you to get a new job, no one’s hassling you to do chores all day.”
Prosecutors said Halderson also lied about being a Madison Police Department scuba diver and misled his girlfriend into believing he’d planned on moving to Titusville, Florida, where he claimed to be renting an apartment suite after getting hired by SpaceX, the aerospace manufacturer, founded by visionary billionaire Elon Musk.
“Police started looking into all of these lies,” after the Haldersons' deaths, Brown explained in his opening statement. “How are you able to catfish your family, your girlfriend, your friends?”
Brown said the company had no record of Halderson’s employment, much less any proof that he’d even ever applied for a position at the spacecraft designer.
“He’s going to be an astronaut,” Brown quipped.
Halderson’s public defenders, Catherine Dorl and Crystal Vera, declined to comment on the trial’s opening stages when reached by email on Wednesday afternoon.
"Unfortunately right now we cannot really say much since the trial is going," Dane County Assistant State Public DefenderCrystal Vera told Oxygen.com.
The trial is expected to run until late January. If convicted on just the murder charges, Halderson faces mandatory life in prison. The 23-year-old is being held at a Dane County detention center, according to online jail records.