Two days before Christmas, Jeff Trail's family laid his ashes to rest, but they still wait - for the one thing they believe will help them destroy the memory of his killer.

The parents of David Madson, Andrew Cunanan's second victim, also wait - for test results that could help clear their son's name.

Last week, the wait ended for any new revelation in the death of Cunanan's fifth and most famous victim, Gianni Versace, when Miami Beach closed the case. New tidbits were tucked away in the police files but no new insight into how or why a cross-country killing spree began in a downtown Minneapolis apartment eight months ago.

Cunanan took the only absolute answers with him when he took his own life. What's left behind is a collection of clues.

The Star Tribune uncovered clues from more than 2,000 pages of documents, more than 2,300 crime-scene photos and interviews with hundreds of people across the country - investigators, criminologists, witnesses, friends, family members.

Piece them together and what emerges is the most probable scenario for what happened in Minnesota those fatal, final days of April:

Cunanan flew to the Twin Cities hoping to reconcile with Trail, the man he called his best friend, and rekindle a romance with Madson, the man he called the love of his life.

He first killed as a desperate ploy to meet with his friend turned brutal. He killed again, days earlier than first believed, after holding his former lover captive.

Deadly decision

It is Sunday, April 27.

Jeff Trail and his companion, Jon Hackett, have just returned from a relaxing stay at the Dancing Winds Goat Dairy and Cheese Plant, and Bed and Breakfast. It's Hackett's 22nd birthday; the trip to southeastern Minnesota was a surprise gift.

At Trail's apartment in Bloomington, Trail bakes a cake and they invite friends over for dinner.

At 8 p.m., the party is going strong. Trail has turned off the ringer to the telephone, so no one realizes that Cunanan is calling. He's forced to leave a message:

"Oh, J.T., where are you? . . . Please give me a call when you can, 339-9186," Cunanan says from Madson's downtown Minneapolis apartment. "OK, bye-bye. Let me know if you are still coming. I really want to see you. Bye-bye."

By 8:10 p.m., Trail discovers the message and returns the call.

He tells Hackett that he's going to hook up with Cunanan at a coffee shop. The men leave Trail's apartment sometime before 9 p.m.

Hackett and his friends set out for the Gay 90's nightclub in downtown Minneapolis, where Trail plans to meet them after seeing Cunanan. Everything seems fine to Hackett; he doesn't notice Trail take anything with him.

Trail leaves alone in his green Honda.

Fractured friendship

Trail and Cunanan were once the closest of friends.

They did volunteer work together. They sailed off the coast of San Diego together. But almost from the start of their friendship in 1993, it was clear to others that Cunanan felt closer to Trail than Trail felt to Cunanan. From the cut of his hair to the choice of his clothes, Cunanan slowly modeled himself after the upstanding
Navy officer and Gulf War veteran.

For Trail - a man who signaled his turns, didn't cut in line and once, without being asked, escorted his hairstylist's child to a father-daughter dance because the girl's daddy couldn't - Cunanan was an intriguing opposite. Flashy, seemingly wealthy, gregarious and well-read, Cunanan was a magnet.

Time eventually exposed the traits that chafed at Trail. Cunanan distanced himself from his family. He lied to his friends. His history was borrowed, his extravagant lifestyle paid for by others.

By early 1997, Cunanan was $40,000 in debt and had gone from living in the posh southern California condominium of a rich older man to sharing a run-down apartment with a young bartender.

On Friday, April 25 - a day after telling friends at a San Diego going-away party that he was moving to San Francisco for a "fresh start" - Cunanan flew to Minneapolis. But he boarded the plane with a one-way ticket.

He told some people he was making the trip to repair his friendship with Trail. He told others he hoped to reignite his romance with Madson.

Madson had for months resisted Cunanan's efforts to get back together. Still, they were friends. Madson only reluctantly agreed to let Cunanan stay at his apartment that Friday, expecting that he would leave town on Monday.

Cunanan hoped to see Trail on Saturday. Instead, he found Trail's apartment empty - a key under the mat and a note telling him to "make yourself at home."

Knowing two weeks earlier that Cunanan was coming to town, Trail had confided to Candy Parrott, his sister, that he didn't want anything to do with Cunanan. But, he said, he didn't know how to sever the friendship.

A friend of Trail's would later tell police that Trail and Cunanan had had a "blowup" after Trail moved to Minnesota in November 1996. Trail never mentioned what the fight was about but said he never wanted to see Cunanan again.

So why would a follow-the-rules man relent and finally agree to meet with a man who ignored the rules?

The same morality that guided Trail's life prevented him from cutting all ties to Cunanan. Stan Trail, Jeff's father, said his son would have gone to see Cunanan that Sunday night simply "because somebody asked him to."

But Cunanan, distraught that Trail was avoiding his efforts to patch things up, also may have had something to compel Trail to show up: Trail's black .40-caliber Taurus semiautomatic pistol.

Trail's family agrees that he would be seething if anyone took the gun he so respected. Trail was a marksman. He bought the gun while he was in the Navy, he attended the California Highway Patrol Academy and he was actively seeking other jobs in law enforcement.

He didn't carry the gun or show it off. He refused to tell even his closest friends or relatives where he kept it. But the gun, its holster, a box of bullets and two clips had been taken from his apartment.

And he had let Cunanan stay there Saturday, alone.

Bloody scene

It's 9:08 p.m. Sunday. A call is placed from a pay phone at a Dunn Bros. coffee shop in the Uptown area of Minneapolis to Madson's apartment.

Whoever makes the call, whatever may have been said, Trail eventually heads to Harmony Lofts in Minneapolis' Warehouse District. He parks his Honda around the corner.

At 9:45 p.m., Trail rings Madson's fourth-floor apartment. Someone has to let him in.

Madson, who has lived in the building for several years, never programmed his phone to electronically buzz in visitors. It's a running joke among his friends. Someone always has to go down to the lobby.

By this time of night, Madson is usually on his way to take his Dalmatian, Prints, for a 15- to 20-minute run just before the 10 o'clock news.

He and Trail are only social acquaintances, but Madson knows Cunanan wants to visit with Trail and hasn't been able to. He's a considerate man, the kind who might give two old friends some time alone.

Trail goes upstairs to Apartment 404, the door closes behind him and the confrontation begins in minutes.

Cunanan grabs a hammer, perhaps from the open red toolbox later found on the dining-room table just a couple of feet from the door. He swings. The hammer gashes into Trail's left forearm at least three times as he deflects the blows.

A next-door neighbor, Jesse Shadoan, hears "strange noises" coming from Madson's apartment. Then he hears someone, much more clearly, yelling, "Get the [expletive] out!"

Madson's door is open.

Cunanan swings and misses, leaving a crescent-shaped dent in the wall next to the door. At least one blow connects with Trail's skull. A single drop of Trail's blood flies directly across the hall and hits the wall. Brain matter hits the inner frame of the door.

The door slams shut.

Trail's battered body crumples onto an Oriental-style rug just inside the door. Cunanan stoops over his dying friend, raining blow after blow after blow on his head. In all, Trail is struck 27 times.

Shadoan hears sounds like "the wall shaking . . . thud-like noises" for 30 to 45 seconds. Then, silence.

He looks into the hall but sees nothing.

Trail's blood-smeared wristwatch, apparently jarred by the force of the attack, freezes in time: 9:55.40 on the 27th day.

Switch flipped

Few believe Cunanan plotted to kill Trail.

He had no clear motive. Contrary to early speculation, he didn't have AIDS and wasn't seeking revenge against former partners. There was no lover's triangle involving Cunanan, Trail and Madson or any sign that Trail was trying to thwart a romance between the other two. There's no evidence proving a friend's recollection that Cunanan had "business" with Trail.

And if Cunanan came to Minnesota planning to kill Trail and had unfettered access to Trail's gun, why didn't he lie in wait for him and use it?

Instead, Cunanan grabbed something within easy reach. The hammer had been out because Madson was working on a corrugated-steel partition for his kitchen. And a longtime Cunanan friend told Miami Beach police that Cunanan "becomes easily angered by the inattention of fickle friends."

Police said the condition of Trail's body and the amount of blood spattered in the apartment indicate an attack of explosive rage. They would later find a possible trigger for that kind of rage: five vials of injectable testosterone inside Cunanan's gym bag.

Testosterone is legally used as hormone therapy, but Cunanan had no medical need for it. It is most often used illegally by body builders and other athletes seeking an edge. Some studies show that steroid use can lead to overaggressiveness and violent behavior.

Cunanan's close friends say he had long boasted of selling illegal drugs, primarily prescription drugs, including testosterone. He also mentioned "smuggling a product from Mexico." Almost all illegal testosterone is smuggled from Mexico.

Officials did not test his blood for increased levels of the hormone. None of his friends said they ever saw him use steroids, nor do they remember him talking about using steroids.

But many who knew him had noticed changes in his demeanor over the previous several months - walking up behind an acquaintance and putting him in a painful headlock, propositioning friends he never sexually approached before, bragging about tossing someone out of a moving car. His face looked bloated, another side effect of steroid use.

Some investigators have suggested that Cunanan may have brought the vials to give to Madson, who worked out daily and was a fanatic about his appearance. But Madson's friends characterize him as extremely health conscious and vehemently against drugs. Madson's blood was not tested for increased levels of testosterone during his autopsy.

Hurried cleanup

It's minutes after the beating ends.

Cunanan is covered in blood - his face, his white Banana Republic T-shirt and his blue baseball cap.

Shadoan hears water running in Madson's apartment.

The body, with Trail's wallet still tucked in his back pocket and his pager clipped to his belt, is rolled up in the rug. It's dragged 10 feet across the hardwood floor and left behind Madson's brown leather sofa.

Two rolls from a six-pack of Brawny paper towels are used to mop up some of the blood, as are towels and a Navy T-shirt identical to the one Trail is wearing under his blue-and-white checked flannel shirt. The items are stuffed into a plastic drawstring bag, along with Trail's broken watch, a gold ring and the hammer.

Cunanan leaves bare footprints in Trail's blood.

But no paw prints are left in the blood, and no one hears barking. Prints barks at everything.

If Prints isn't there, it's doubtful that Madson is either.

No escape

David Madson's family and friends remain convinced that the fast-rising and popular architect did not witness, nor was involved in, Trail's beating.

But if he came home to such a shocking scene, why would he stay in that apartment with a corpse and a killer for almost two days? It appears that Madson didn't have a choice.

Two pairs of handcuffs with keys and three large wads of duct tape were found on and around the dresser in Madson's bedroom. A rocking chair that normally wasn't kept in the bedroom was found near the dresser - at the foot of his Mission-style bed.

Initially, investigators said they believed the items were willingly used for sex sometime during the weekend. At least one investigator still believes that, largely because he can't prove otherwise.

Madson and Cunanan had dated from the end of 1995 until the summer of 1996, but that part of their relationship had ended. Madson accepted a lavish, gift-laden weekend at a Los Angeles hotel in March. It didn't woo him back.

And Madson, who was intensely private about certain aspects of his sex life, wouldn't have left handcuffs in plain view.

Other detectives who worked on the case agree with Madson's family: The items were used to hold Madson against his will.

But why not kill him right away? Maybe Cunanan's love for Madson spared him at first. Friends and family credit Madson's charm and intelligence. They say he could "talk his way out of anything."

In college, he got a top grade for a hastily scribbled set of architectural drawings by skillfully embellishing the sketches with his words. And at the John Ryan Co., where he later worked, Madson often was the one to assure colleagues that "everything will be all right."

Grisly discovery

It's Monday morning and Prints must be walked.

If he's not, he'll whine and bark and draw attention to the apartment. But who will do it? Prints won't obey anyone but Madson.

Looking out from her apartment, Kathleen Sullivan sees Madson and another man walking the dog that morning and the next.

The usually exuberant Madson, who often shouts greetings to friends along the way, looks "crabby" and "under duress." Another odd sight: Prints is leashed. Madson doesn't walk Prints on a leash.

So, why doesn't Madson escape?

Cunanan, wearing a jacket that could conceal Trail's gun, walks close to him. Both mornings are warm and dry and Madson doesn't wear a coat.

And Prints is there. The dog, almost like a child to Madson, was once shot in the face. Madson carried the bleeding dog to the veterinarian. He wouldn't put Prints in danger.

It appears that Madson and Cunanan don't wander far from Harmony Lofts. Jennifer Wiberg, the building's caretaker, sees Madson's red Jeep Grand Cherokee parked in the same grab-it-while-you-can spot at 2nd St. and Washington Av. both

Friends grow increasingly concerned. Trail and Madson haven't shown up for work. Hackett is at Trail's apartment almost constantly, holding vigil for his return while making repeated and desperate calls to police.
Several calls are logged on Madson's caller ID. Trail's companion, co-workers and parents repeatedly page him.

At 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, two of Madson's co-workers go to the loft. They knock on his door. They call his name. When they hear whispers and Prints' whimpers from behind the door, the women call the caretaker.

Between 2 and 4 p.m., Madson and Cunanan apparently leave the loft. They leave Prints behind.

Madson leaves his wallet on the kitchen counter. Cunanan leaves his bag, containing the testosterone, holster, a clip and extra bullets. But he takes his wallet, passport, two blank checks and the loaded gun.

They also take two sets of keys to Madson's Jeep.

The caretaker takes a resident with her to Madson's apartment, unlocks the door, sees a rolled-up rug. They call Prints to them, close the door, call police.

At 4:24 p.m. Minneapolis officers Rebecca Friou and Jack Kelly enter the apartment. They smell the body before they see it.

The search for a killer begins.

When did Madson die?

Initially, some investigators considered Madson a murder suspect. Others believed he was in imminent danger.

Ralph Madson, David's brother, remembers a telephone call Friday from Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve Wagner. "I'll never forget his words: `We've got to find him. This Cunanan guy is one bad hombre. We've got to find David.' "

Ralph Madson said he knew then that finding David meant David was going to be dead.

Saturday morning, two fishermen found David Madson's body on the shore of East Rush Lake in Chisago County. He was shot three times - between the shoulder blades, across the right cheek and through the right eye - with a .40-caliber handgun. His body was dragged into tall weeds and left near the water's edge.

The body showed few signs of decomposition, suggesting to investigators that Madson had spent substantial time with Cunanan before he was killed sometime between late Thursday and early Saturday morning.

But new scientific evidence indicates that Madson died as early as Tuesday, the day he and Cunanan left the apartment.

Dr. Lindsey Thomas, who performed Madson's autopsy, said a test that determined potassium levels in Madson's eye fluid shows he probably was killed four to six days before his body was found.

"I think it was more probable that it was Tuesday or Wednesday," she said, noting that a combination of factors needs to be considered. "The key to determining time of death, really, is seeing how consistent it is with the rest of the story."

There had been several reported sightings of Cunanan and Madson on Friday: driving north on Interstate Hwy. 35, eating cheeseburgers and drinking beer in a Rush City bar. None were confirmed.

Thomas said she found no food in Madson's stomach; a large meal would take three to six hours to fully digest. Those things coupled with the potassium test, she said, make it improbable that Madson ate that meal or was still alive Friday.

Another piece of evidence that has gnawed at investigators for months is a parking receipt, dated Wednesday, April 30.

The receipt, later found in Madson's Jeep, shows that a vehicle was parked from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. in a downtown Chicago parking garage attached to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Tower. Investigators say it made no sense for Cunanan to take Madson to Chicago on Wednesday, return to Minnesota and kill him Friday then
go back to Chicago to kill a third victim Saturday.

To Thomas and others, the receipt adds to the likelihood that Madson died Tuesday.

In an attempt to further narrow Madson's time of death, Chisago County officials have hired a forensic entomologist to study fly larvae found in Madson's mouth. The Madson family said preliminary results of those tests are expected soon.

But Thomas said it's nearly impossible for any one test to pinpoint time of death.

A rampage

If Trail's killing can be explained as an unplanned crime of blind rage, and Madson's death was the silencing of a man who knew too much, why then did Cunanan continue to kill?

No one has been able to prove why Cunanan so viciously killed Lee Miglin, the real-estate mogul who was discovered gagged, bound and masked in his Chicago garage Sunday, one day after the fishermen found Madson's body. Miglin was stabbed twice through the heart with a screwdriver. His head was nearly severed with a garden saw. Every rib was broken, apparently after he was run over by a car in the garage.

Recently released police files from Miami Beach indicate that Miglin was already dead by noon Saturday and that Cunanan made it to New York City before he was linked to that killing.

Cunanan became a suspect Wednesday, after police found Madson's Jeep parked around the corner from Miglin's Gold Coast rowhouse.

Chicago buzzed with speculation about why Cunanan chose Miglin. Cunanan was known to live off the comforts of wealthy older men, and Miglin's son, Duke, is an actor in California. But Miglin's family, through a spokesman, insisted that none of them knew Cunanan.

Despite the brutality and apparent passion of the killing, Chicago police said Miglin was a robbery victim. They said they never found a link between the killer and anyone associated with the millionaire. Miglin's wife, family and friends characterize Miglin as a happily married man who was the random victim of a maniac.

All police could prove is that Cunanan robbed Miglin of his car - equipped with a cellular phone - clothes, cash and collectible coins to continue his flight from justice.

Miami Beach records indicate that Cunanan was likely on the run from Chicago around noon Saturday, May 3. Cell phone activation records seem to track Cunanan traveling east: At 12:37 p.m. the phone signal is picked up by a tower in Grand Rapids, Mich. At 2:55 p.m, another signal is picked up in Union County, Pa. At 4:34 p.m., there's another signal from Union County.

Two days later, Cunanan is in New York City.

On May 5, he registered at The West Side Club, a gay bathhouse. On May 7, he watched the movie "Liar, Liar" at the Chelsea Theater. He returned to the theater the next day, seeing "The Devil's Own."

One day later, Miglin's cell phone was activated three times in southern New Jersey. News reports about the attempted calls alerted Cunanan that police were tracking him.

The search for another vehicle began.

He found it in Pennsville, N.J.

Sometime between 4:30 and 6:15 p.m, Cunanan marched cemetery caretaker William Reese down the basement stairs of the Finn's Point National Cemetery office and forced him to his hands and knees. He shot him once through the back of the head.

The bullet, a .40-caliber Golden Saber hollow point, was the same kind that killed Madson.

Cunanan left the car outside the building and took the caretaker's red pickup truck. He also took Reese's wallet.

Cunanan headed south, making a brief stop in South Carolina that would help him elude authorities for the next two months. There, he switched the pickup's license plates with plates taken from a parked car.

Popping Vivarin, Cunanan drove straight through to a place where he could hide in plain sight - Miami Beach.

Final act

The peninsula city is home to good-looking, olive-skinned men, many of whom are gay. Cunanan, of Filipino descent, could fit in and fade away.

Miami Beach was also a home to world-renowned Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace. And Cunanan's friends said he bragged of once meeting Versace. Investigators don't know whether Cunanan went to the South Beach area of the city simply to hide or specifically to target Versace, who returned in July from Italy.

But if Cunanan was waiting for Versace, he was running out of money and growing desperate.

One week before Versace was fatally shot on the steps of his palatial villa, Cunanan walked from his $30-a-night motel room to a nearby pawn shop to sell a gold coin he had stolen from Miglin. To get paid, he had to provide his passport, his right thumbprint and his signature.

He left with $190.

Two days before Versace was killed, Cunanan left the motel without paying for his last two nights. He slept in Reese's truck, using bunched-up Gap clothing as pillows, in a parking garage just two blocks from Versace's villa.

On the morning of July 15, Cunanan rushed to catch up to Versace as he was putting his key into the wrought-iron gate of his mansion. Skipping up the stairs behind the designer, Cunanan levelled the gun at Versace's head and pulled the trigger twice.

Police said last week that they were never able to establish a motive. But they said robbery seemed unlikely because $1,173.63 in cash was found in Versace's  pockets. Was Cunanan seeking the celebrity's help to escape Florida? Or did Cunanan - the target of one of the largest manhunts in the nation's history - gun down the gay icon because he sought a lasting blast of fame?

Cunanan never told.

During the eight days he spent in hiding after killing Versace, there is no evidence that he called friends or family. He didn't leave a journal. He left no note.

In his final act, shoving the barrel of Trail's gun into his mouth and pulling the trigger, he took his motives with him.

To the Trail family, a trial would have meant more pain. Ann Trail never met her son's killer, but she's certain of one thing about him: Had he lived, he would have lied. "He never told the truth."

Instead, the Trails wait for their own way to put their son's killer to rest.

They've asked for their son's .40-caliber gun to be returned to them. The police have given them a tape of one of the phone messages Cunanan left for Jeff Trail. The gun, now in federal custody, has yet to arrive.

They plan to destroy both.

It will be, Stan Trail said, "a destruction of Cunanan."