Crime, Law and Justice

Murder charges: Ex-partner allegedly abused, threatened Madeline Kingsbury

Tom Williams speaks during a press conference
Madeline Kingsbury’s photo is displayed Thursday in Winona as officials brief reporters on the discovery of her remains and the arrest of Adam Fravel, her ex-partner, in connection with her death. Fravel was charged Friday with second-degree murder.
Ken Klotzbach for MPR News

Updated 2:52 p.m.

Winona County prosecutors on Friday charged Adam Fravel with second-degree murder in the death of Madeline Kingsbury, whose remains were found Wednesday concealed in a wooded area in Fillmore County following her disappearance in late March.

Fravel, Kingsbury’s ex-partner and the father of her two young children, made an initial court appearance Friday in Winona County. Bail was set at $1 million with conditions.

Charging documents say the two were in the process of separating and that she had recently met someone else. The documents include allegations Fravel had previously physically abused Kingsbury.

Fravel also allegedly told investigators he was “infatuated” with the case of Gabby Petito, who was killed by her fiance in 2021 as the two were traveling across the western United States.

Fravel, 29, has previously denied involvement in the disappearance of Kingsbury, 26. An attorney for Fravel, contacted via email on Friday morning, declined comment.

In his request for high bail on Friday, prosecutor Phillip Prokopowicz said that during the course of the investigation, Fravel “mocked police officers, he exposed himself to police officers, he made flippant remarks to police officers.”

More charges may be coming beyond the current counts of second-degree intentional murder and second-degree unintentional murder, Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman told reporters Friday afternoon, noting first-degree murder charges require a grand jury’s involvement.

“We have heard from so many individuals about how wonderful a person Maddi was. She had a bright future, and Mr. Fravel took that away from her,” Sonneman said. “We intend to hold him accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

The children, ages 2 and 5, are currently in the custody of Kingsbury’s father, she added.

Fravel’s next court appearance is set for July 20.

‘Homicidal violence’

According to the criminal complaint, Kingsbury’s remains were found Wednesday in a culvert along a gravel road, off State Highway 43. It was on property “routinely maintained” by Fravel family members, near the home of Fravel’s parents. Officials on Thursday noted the body was not found on property owned by Fravel’s relatives.

The remains were wrapped in a fitted bed sheet authorities said appeared to match sheets found in the Winona home of Kingsbury and Fravel. The medical examiner found a knotted towel around Kingsbury’s head and neck, the complaint states, and the cause of death was listed as “homicidal violence.” Authorities have not said how Kingsbury died.

Signs along the highway in Chatfield
Signs along the highway in Chatfield, Minn., ask for help finding Madeline Kingsbury, whose remains were discovered Wednesday in Fillmore County.
Ken Klotzbach for MPR News

The complaint alleges past incidents of abuse, including a friend reporting that — while she was on a video call with Kingsbury in 2020 or 2021 — she allegedly saw Fravel strike Kingsbury in the face, and that at other times she saw bruises on Kingsbury’s face.

Investigators also allegedly recovered text messages from Kingsbury’s phone, including one in 2021 in which she texted Fravel: “You know I’m not really okay with or over the fact that you put your hand around my neck and pushed me down in front of the kids earlier so don’t.”

After Kingsbury was reported missing on March 31, investigators spoke with Fravel several times. Fravel allegedly “acknowledged that recently their relationship was not working, so they decided to separate and were in the process of moving out of their Winona residence.”

Fravel also said Kingsbury had told him she was seeing someone else. And Fravel “also admitted that he made a statement to Madeline about her ending up like Gabby Petito. Fravel claimed he was trying to make a joke,” the complaint alleges.

He said on the morning of March 31, he and Kingsbury had dropped their kids off at day care and returned home, at which point Kingsbury went downstairs for an online meeting before she planned to leave for work in Rochester.

Friends and family of Madeline Kingsbury console each other
Friends and family of Madeline Kingsbury console each other after a Thursday press conference at Winona City Hall announcing the finding of her remains.
Ken Klotzbach for MPR News

Fravel said he left the home in Kingsbury’s van with some items to store at his parents’ home near Mabel, Minn. — about an hour south of Winona — but changed his mind while driving. He said he returned home to find Kingsbury gone but their other vehicle still there.

Fravel allegedly told investigators he thought Kingsbury had carpooled to work, and when she didn’t respond to text messages about picking their kids up from day care, he picked them up and took them to his parents’ home.

The complaint alleges surveillance video showed someone changing the license plates on Kingsbury’s van while parked at their home on the morning of March 31, after the children were dropped off at day care.

A short time later, video from a Winona gas station allegedly showed the van parked there, with plates belonging to Fravel’s car.

Over the next three hours the van is seen on various cameras traveling south along Minnesota Highway 43 into Fillmore County, then back north to Winona. That evening, the complaint alleges, the van had its correct license plates.

‘Full of heartache’

On Thursday, authorities at a news conference confirmed that the body found in Fillmore County the day before was that of Kingsbury. Winona Police Chief Tom Williams told reporters that “digital evidence” helped lead them to the remains.

The case, he said, had been “frustrating, full of heartache and pain for the family, law enforcement and the community.”

Hundreds of volunteers had helped in search efforts across a wide swath of southeastern Minnesota in the weeks after Kingsbury was reported missing.

Kingsbury worked as a clinical research coordinator for Mayo Clinic. In a memo to colleagues Friday, four top clinic executives noted Kingsbury had graduated from Winona State University with a degree in public health administration and was pursuing her master’s in public health from the University of Minnesota.

“She was positive and encouraging to all those around her,” they wrote. “Maddi served as a Well-Being Champion and organized social events for her coworkers. She will be deeply missed by those who knew and loved her.”