WINONA — For almost 10 weeks, Madeline Kingsbury's family and friends held out hope she would safely return to her home and children.
That hope was dashed when a body was found by a deputy south of Winona on Wednesday. Medical examiners have since confirmed the body is Kingsbury's, ending the uncertainty surrounding her suspicious disappearance.
"While the discovery was not what we were hoping for, we are thankful to be able to bring Maddi home to her family," Winona Police Chief Tom Williams said at a news conference Thursday.
The father of Kingsbury's children, Adam Fravel, was arrested Wednesday evening on suspicion of murder 69 days after Kingsbury went missing.
Kingsbury, who would have turned 27 on June 1, was last seen with Fravel dropping off their children at day care in Winona on March 31.
She didn't show up for work at Mayo Clinic in Rochester or pick up her kids. Police searched her van and home, finding her phone, wallet, ID and a jacket she had worn earlier in the day.
The discovery of her body brings some closure to the more than 2,000 volunteers who searched for her this spring, residents who posted lawn signs with her picture and people who put up fliers around town and decals on their cars in support.
Law enforcement declined to comment on potential charges or say whether more than one person was involved in Kingsbury's death.
"Our primary focus is to protect this case and protect the prosecution," said Bonney Bowman, a spokesperson with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
A Fillmore County sheriff's deputy searching a wooded area off Highway 43 north of Mabel, close to the Iowa border, discovered Kingsbury's body about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Williams said law enforcement and volunteers previously searched the area, but Kingsbury's body "was covered and concealed in such a manner that she was not visible."
Her body was found about 3 or 4 miles from property owned by Fravel's relatives, according to a volunteer involved in searching for Kingsbury.
Deputies arrested Fravel shortly after 5 p.m. at a home in Mabel without incident, Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge said.
Police say they're still reviewing more than 450 tips, interviewing witnesses and compiling evidence to be used in charging Fravel. Winona County last month brought on a special prosecutor, former Dakota County deputy attorney Phillip Prokopowicz, to handle the case.
In a statement, Kingsbury's family said they believe "the correct person has been arrested."
Katie Kolka, a close friend of Kingsbury, was at Thursday's news conference along with other loved ones who wore T-shirts with Kingsbury's photo on them and held signs calling for justice. She thanked Kingsbury's well-wishers across the country and asked them to continue supporting the family.
"It's going to be a rough one," Kolka said.
Kingsbury's children, ages 5 and 2, are in the care of her parents, David and Cathy Kingsbury, after Winona County human services removed them from Fravel's care April 4. County officials found out Fravel did not have custodial rights to the children, meaning the kids didn't have a legal decisionmaker with Kingsbury gone.
Officials found Kingsbury's children with Fravel at his parents' home. Fravel and his family initially didn't allow social workers access to the children but eventually relented after Fravel called his attorney, according to court records.
County officials made an agreement earlier this week to drop a petition for child protection against Fravel as long as he agreed to admit in court the children needed protection as their legal guardian, Kingsbury, was considered missing at the time. A custody case between Fravel and Kingsbury's parents is on hold pending a contested hearing that has yet to be scheduled, according to Winona County court administration officials.