Fravel murder trial change of venue request pending after April 30 hearing

By Denise Lana,

Adam Fravel, a Mabel, Minn., native, appeared in a Winona County, Minn., courtroom Tuesday, April 30, to hear arguments regarding his request for change of venue for his pending murder trial in the March 2023 death of his on-and-off girlfriend and mother of their two young children, Madeline Kingsbury. 

Kingsbury disappeared March 31, 2023, and numerous search parties ensued over the next several months until her body was discovered, June 7, 2023. Fravel was arrested June 8 and charged with two counts of second-degree murder. In October 2023, a grand jury returned an indictment of first-degree murder with premeditation, based on a past pattern of abuse, in addition to the existing two counts of second-degree murder. 

During the hearing April 30, Fravel’s attorney Zachary Bauer argued that a fair and partial trial cannot be held in Winona County due to overwhelming prejudicial publicity by local and national media. Bauer specifically called attention to the Rochester, Minn., KTTC television station, which shared 59 separate news reports, videos and stories between April 1, 2023, and Dec. 14, 2023. More recently, CBS TV’s show 48 Hours aired nationally an episode covering Kingsbury’s disappearance and murder.  

The defense also shared results from a public opinion survey completed by a SMG research company, calling the manager of the company to testify. The manager said that, according to the survey, 100 people from Winona County and city were contacted via cell and landline phones in late February and early March. They were specifically asked if they had read, seen or heard about Kingsbury, with 89 of 100 answering yes. Ultimately, 65 of the 89 answered they felt Fravel was guilty of Kingsbury’s death. Defense argued that this number, 75 percent of the people surveyed, showed that “there is an increased level of awareness of this case, and a higher degree of opinions of who did it.”  

Prosecuting attorneys rebutted, saying that “opinions can change over time.” Prosecutors suggested that mentioning both Kingsbury and Fravel in the survey could have influenced those people who participated in the survey, and questioned the research manager why she did not ask more detailed questions about the information the participants had heard. No questions were asked regarding the justice system or their “ability to put aside opinions and judge fairly.” When asked by the prosecution, “If someone takes an oath to tell the truth, does that change someone’s opinion?”, the manager replied she did not have a basis for that comparison.  

The defense then submitted press releases and pictures from social media from the Winona Police Department and Emergency Management and called to the stand the Mayor of Winona and the technical support engineer of the emergency management department. Both were questioned extensively regarding posters that were being shared publicly and on social media, with the posters showing a picture of Kingsbury and phrases about ending domestic violence. It was suggested by the defense that placing this phrase on a picture of Kingsbury eluded that she had died in a manner that occurred in a domestic situation with Fravel. 

After lengthy testimonies from the three witnesses, the defense rested. The state presented no evidence, and Presiding Judge Nancy Buytendorp announced she would need time to review all the evidence and arguments put forth. A May 31 deadline was established for the state to respond and June 7 the date for any rebuttals. Buytendorp will tentatively issue her ruling June 10 regarding the change of venue request.  

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