A man charged with murdering his parents and scattering their body parts across the State of Wisconsin has tested positive for COVID-19 in the middle of his multi-week trial, the judge overseeing the matter announced in court on Tuesday. Judge John D. Hyland strongly suggested he would shut down the proceedings at the conclusion of day six of the trial as a the result of the defendant’s diagnosis.
Chandler Halderson, 23, is accused of killing Bart Halderson, 50, and Krista Halderson, 53, in early July 2021. The defendant claimed he was working at an insurance company and with a local rescue dive team. That was all a fabrication, prosecutors said. In reality, Halderson lived in his parents’ home unemployed while he played video games. The defendant even told his girlfriend he secured a job with SpaceX, but he indicated he had to cut short a planned move to Florida because he claimed to have fallen down a set of stairs and sustained a head injury.
The defendants alleged lies caught up with him, prosecutors said, so he shot his father in the back and killed his mother when she returned home. The defendant, to the contrary, claimed his parents took off for the Fourth of July and never returned from a northwoods lake where the couple planned to retreat for the holiday.
Prosecutors in court on Tuesday called the defendant’s diagnosis “unprecedented.” The state declined to take a position on whether or not the case should be postponed out of concerns that any position taken would not be advantageous to the state’s case in chief.
The defendant was “looking and feeling very bad” and likely had COVID during the week of Dec. 27, 2021, defense attorneys said. However, there was no test at that time to confirm a diagnosis.
“In my opinion, it’s not something that he contracted recently; it’s something that he already had,” a defense attorney said.
The defense noted that Halderson was kept socially distant from the jury during the first six days of the trial and that both jurors and the defendant had remained masked for the duration.
The National Guard was recently called to deal with an outbreak at the Dane County Jail where the defendant is being housed. Some 15% of inmates reportedly tested positive at the capital area facility yesterday. Halderson’s positive diagnosis may have occurred pursuant to that regimented testing regime.
“I don’t know what the right answer here is,” the defense said of the possibility of punting the case due to the virus. “I just know that we do not want to declare a mistrial. We want to move forward and think that it is possible to do so. The only thing stopping us, I suppose, is the jail right now.”
The defense bemoaned the volume of publicity the case has heretofore generated — it is being carried live on the Law&Crime Network, for instance — and argued that seating a new and unbiased jury would be difficult given the myriad news reports about the case. Should a hypothetical mistrial occur, the defense noted that the court would have to wait out a quarantine period, wait for COVID to clear up in the county jail, and find a new jury in the time allotment required by the Badger State’s speedy trial law.
In other words, the defense reiterated, a mistrial was not a preferred outcome of the diagnosis.
The defense suggested pausing the trial until next Tuesday. Judge Hyland countered that he might pause the proceeding until Jan. 24.
Hyland then noted that the defendant had been tested by a “reliable” PCR test. Defense attorneys said the defendant was vaccinated, but it was unclear whether he had received a booster shot.
The judge said he would almost certainly release the jury Wednesday morning and pondered contacting public health authorities to provide testing for any jurors who wished to partake. The judge also said he would speak with officials at the local jail about quarantine protocols.
Halderson is charged with two counts each of first-degree intentional homicide, providing false information on a kidnapped or missing person, mutilating a corpse, and hiding a corpse. All of the eight charges in total are felonies.
[Image via jail mugshot]
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