Megan Kingsbury and her sister Madeline used to spend hours together, taking long walks, relaxing by the lake, or trying out new coffee shops in the towns where they lived, a few hours apart, in Minnesota. Both voracious readers, they’d chat about their favorite books or about Madeline’s two young children, ages five and two. Even when they were apart, they communicated constantly. “We talked every day, multiple times a day,” Kingsbury says. “We were each other’s first call for any type of news, good or bad. We were very, very close.”

The only thing Kingsbury really clashed with her sister about was Madeline’s relationship with her on-and-off partner and father of her children, Adam Fravel — the man now charged with her murder after Madeline’s disappearance two months ago. In the past, Kingsbury tells Rolling Stone, she worried about the relationship, which she said had been bad for her sister. “We all tried to help her get out of her situation with him for a long time,” she says of herself and her family. “You can’t make anybody do anything, but I feel like anybody would be just kind of racking their brain and kind of drowning in the guilt.”

Prior to the discovery of Madeline’s remains, Fravel denied involvement in any wrongdoing. “I did not have anything to do with Maddi’s disappearance,” he said as part of a statement released through his attorney Zachary Bauer in April. “I want the mother of my five-year-old and two-year-old to be found and brought home safely. I want that more than anything.” Bauer did not immediately respond to a request for further comment, and Fravel has not entered a plea.

Throughout the search for Madeline, Kingsbury, 31, chronicled the experience on TikTok. In personal, often emotional videos, she shared with her growing audience what it was like waiting for news and worked to keep attention on her sister’s case. “I know that she would have done it for me,” Kingsbury says. She also offered frequent updates on the search based on the information law enforcement put out. On Madeline’s 27th birthday, June 1, she lit a candle in a cupcake. Last week, the long wait for news reached a tragic ending.

On June 7, Madeline was found dead, wrapped in a sheet, on the side of a road near her home in Winona, Minnesota. Prosecutors have been tight-lipped about what evidence they’ve found, but they say Fravel is responsible, and that he threatened Madeline in the past. Now, Kingsbury is grieving her sister, waiting for justice to be served, and continuing to post on TikTok. She hopes she can help other women avoid Madeline’s fate. “As much as I hate to talk about it, I will tell her story every day until I die if I can help one person get out from something like that,” she says.

Madeline was last seen the morning of March 31, 2023, when she dropped her son and daughter off at daycare. She texted Kingsbury around 8:15 a.m., according to court documents, and that was the last anyone heard from her. She didn’t show up for work at the Mayo Clinic, where she’d worked as a clinical research coordinator — a job she loved, Kingsbury says. Madeline was also working toward a master’s degree in public health at the University of Minnesota. She didn’t pick up her kids later that day, and didn’t respond to her family’s texts and calls. By the next morning, her family had convened in Winona, where they reported her missing. 

Kingsbury has said on TikTok her family suspected Fravel’s involvement from the beginning. She declines to speak about specifics of their past, saying it could compromise the case against Fravel, but she tells Rolling Stone their relationship was “not great for a long time.” She says, “He just never really treated her quite right. She just deserved a lot more than she got.” 

In the early hours of her disappearance, however, Kingsbury asked Fravel for help. “I actually texted Adam,” Kingsbury says. “He and I weren’t really friends, I would say, so I didn’t even know if he would respond to me.” After an hour, he did reply, saying that he didn’t know where Madeline was.

In the days and weeks that followed, a massive search effort ensued. Thousands of volunteers scoured farms and fields, while authorities searched by foot, car, and aircraft and looked in nearby waterways. The Winona Police canvassed neighborhoods and asked people to turn in video surveillance footage of a van thought to be Madeline’s. 

Kingsbury, who had previously used TikTok to post “get ready with me” and food trend videos that drew only a handful of views, began posting about Madeline the day her family reported her missing. “​​There’s so many cases of people going missing, especially women, who just kind of disappear,” she says. “We wanted as much attention as possible for her to make sure that she didn’t slip between the cracks, and we weren’t wondering 10 or 20 years later what happened to her.” 

She posted updates almost every day, to enormous response. Suddenly thousands of people were watching her talk about her sister. Hundreds voiced their sympathy in the comments, from the U.S., the U.K., and as far as Australia. It’s been “weird” to suddenly have so many people interacting with her online, Kingsbury says, but “comforting,” too. “It makes me happy that a lot of people think about Maddie,” she says. “She spent a long time not feeling very loved and appreciated and now there’s thousands of people out there who know about her and care about her.”

On June 7, authorities recovered Madeline’s remains, wrapped in a fitted sheet that had been closed with Gorilla tape. There was a knotted towel wrapped around her head and neck, according to court documents. The authorities confirmed it was her the following day by her tattoos, jewelry, and dental records. The death was ruled a homicide, but the manner of death has not yet been revealed. Kingsbury thought she’d prepared herself for that eventuality. “It’s not really something that you can prepare for, I guess,” she says. “It was devastating. I feel like I like blacked out or something.”

Seeing Fravel arrested the same night the remains were discovered wasn’t a surprise to Madeline’s family, but it was a relief. In one recent TikTok, Kingsbury called it a “silver lining.” “When we heard that he had finally been arrested, it was kind of the moment that we were waiting for, and so we didn’t really know what to do next,” she says. “We still don’t. There’s a lot up in the air right now. And, unfortunately, we know that it’s going to take time to get justice for her, and figuring out how to find a new normal and how to tell her children. It’s just a lot of unknown right now.”

In court documents, authorities detail some of the alleged threats and abuse Madeline endured from Fravel. In one instance, a friend told law enforcement that Fravel had told Madeline that if she didn’t listen up, she’d wind up like Gabby Petito. Fravel admitted to making the comment, police said, although he said he was joking. He also said he’d been “infatuated” with the case of Petito, who disappeared during a cross-country van trip with her fiancé in the summer of 2021, before her remains were found in a Wyoming campground. Her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, died by suicide and left a note saying he’d killed Petito. Authorities also recovered a screenshot from Madeline’s phone that showed a text exchange between her and Fravel, where she told him it was “not OK” that he’d put his hand around her neck and pushed her down in front of their kids. “Not okay with it all but especially with them there,” she said. Fravel replied, “You’ll adjust.” Kingsbury says Madeline told her about both instances at the time they happened. 


Still, she says, Madeline always wanted to make things work with Fravel for the sake of their children. They were in the process of separating when she was killed. “Even when they decided to not be in a relationship, she wanted to stay as close to the area so their kids could have a life with their dad, too,” she says. “She was trying everything to be very accommodating.”

Now that Madeline’s body has been found, the need to publicize the search on social media has waned. But Kingsbury says she’ll keep posting, at least for now, because she feels like she’s reaching a community that needs to talk about their experiences. “I’ve gotten messages about people who’ve lost their mothers or daughters or sisters, cousins, a lot to domestic violence,” she says. Now she wants to try to reach people before the worst happens. “I think just like keeping the story out there spreads awareness,” she says. “And hopefully, I can help at least one person.”