Judge: Fravel will not be called to testify in children visitation case
(ABC 6 News) — Members of the Fravel and Kingsbury families were back in court Friday, discussing visitation rights for the children of Adam Fravel and Madeline Kingsbury.
Adam Fravel has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Madeline Kingsbury. The mother of two went missing after dropping her children off at daycare on March 31. Her body was found in Fillmore County two months later.
David and Cathy Kingsbury, Madeline Kingsbury’s parents, received custody of the children in June.
Adam Fravel’s parents, Richard and Ann, petitioned for visitation rights in late September, citing several months’ separation from Madeline Kingsbury and Adam Fravel’s children, who previously visited their home about every other weekend.
The day after the Fravel grandparents filed for visitation, the Kingsbury grandparents filed motions to force the Fravel grandparents and Adam Fravel to testify about their actions in the days surrounding Kingsbury’s murder before the visitation hearing, as well as delay any visitation hearings until after the murder trial was complete.
Questions of custodial rights; relevance of evidence
In a Zoom hearing on Friday, Oct. 20, Winona County Judge Mary Leahy made it clear — she was there to determine whether the Fravel grandparents had a right to visitation, not to try a murder case in family court.
“That is not before me, and I will not touch it with a 10-foot pole,” she said.
Attorney Michelle Guillien, representing Ann and Richard Fravel, argued that the Kingsbury’s extensive list of evidentiary demands to the Fravels were both an attempt to delay the visitation hearings so they could later argue that the children had no relationship to preserve with their paternal grandparents after an 18-month separation, and an attempt to bring the criminal case against Adam Fravel into the family court.
According to Sept. 29 filings, those evidence demands include written accounts of their movements and knowledge of events surrounding Maddi Kingsbury’s murder; accounts of every conversation they have had with Adam Fravel since March 31, 2023; descriptions of every social media post written by a member of their family since March of 2023; a list of Maddi Kingsbury prayer services and fundraisers the Fravel family attended; and a full medical history of Adam Fravel; and every encounter with the Kingsbury children between April 2022 and April 2023.
Attorney Jason Brown, representing David and Cathy Kingsbury, argued that as the Fravels had petitioned for visitation, the Kingsburys, as the custodial guardians, had a right to make them prove that their presence would benefit the children.
He also alleged that the Kingsburys had the right to know whether Richard and Ann Fravel had supported Adam Fravel in any way — financially, legally, or through advice — since Maddi Kingsbury’s disappearance.
Judge Leahy stopped Brown during the hearing to clarify how some of the requested evidence, especially that related specifically to Adam Fravel’s history, would be used in a visitation trial.
“Whether they supported their son or not, that doesn’t seem to matter to me.”
Brown cited allegedly inflammatory social media posts by members of the Fravel family, which he said could prove that the families were in direct conflict and could bring that unrest into visits with the children.
Attorney Tom Braun also called into the hearing to request that the Kingsbury grandparents’ order for Adam Fravel to testify during the visitation hearing be quashed, as his murder trial is ongoing.
“You want to undermine his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights by asking him questions about a murder in family court?” Braun asked. “The Kingsburys are trying to make this part of the criminal case.”
Visitation case to move forward; Adam Fravel will not testify
During Friday’s hearing, Judge Leahy ruled that Adam Fravel would not be required to testify in the visitation hearing, as the questions posed to him would “inevitably run astray of the subject of grandparent visitation — it’s unwarranted and it will not be allowed.”
“The Constitution isn’t just an inconvenience,” she told Brown. “It’s there to protect him and his rights.”
Fravel’s next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 14, 2023. He has not entered a plea on the new charges of 1st-degree murder.
Leahy also determined that the grandparent visitation case would proceed with an evidentiary hearing beginning Jan. 9 through 12.
The Kingsburys have a right to an evidentiary hearing, she added — but she warned both attorneys that they would need excellent justifications for requesting testimony by criminal investigators in family court.
“This is not the criminal case, it will not become the criminal case, and if you try, I will nip you in the bud,” Leahy said.
Leahy said she would research and consider a request for supervised visitation with the Fravel grandparents in the interim.
As Fravel’s murder case has no trial date set, Leahy said the extremely young Kingsbury children, ages 2 and 5, would be better served if the court determined the visitation issue quickly.
“It’s not in their best interest to let time pass,” Leahy said.