At 33, David Madson had a promising future. Having been accepted into both architecture and law school, he had clearly worked hard to achieve his dreams. His friends described him as driven, smart, and charming. They wanted the best for him, which is why they were supportive when Madson broke up with his secretive boyfriend, Andrew Cunanan. Unfortunately, it was that ex-boyfriend who cut Madson’s life short. Who was this charismatic young man, and what led his ex to murder him? Our David Madson wiki will take a deeper look into the details surrounding his life and death.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story reintroduced the world to serial killer Andrew Cunanan. It also gave further insight into his victims.
His first, Jeffrey Trail, was a friend of his whom he beat to death. Cunanan hid Trail’s body in the apartment of his ex-boyfriend and second victim, David Madson. The man who Cunanan once said was “the love of my life” was brutally murdered, his body found near a lake four days after Trail’s body was discovered in Madson’s apartment.
The Man Who Murdered David Madson
It’s been over two decades since Andrew Cunanan, an egomaniacal, sadistic, pathological liar turned serial murderer, embarked on a bloody killing spree that spanned several states including Minnesota, California, and Florida.
This was a case that not only shocked America to its core at the time (thanks in large part to the gruesome and unexpected murder of critically acclaimed fashion designer Gianni Versace), but it also helped propel Cunanan into a whirlwind of international notoriety as one of the most vicious and merciless serial killers of the twentieth century.
Truth be told, the 27-year-old probably would’ve reveled in the notoriety. It wasn’t exactly a secret that he had a penchant for flaunting fame and fortune that he hadn’t actually earned himself to gain admiration and attention.
One of the unfortunate victims of that misguided sense of self-aggrandizement was Cunanan’s former lover and second murder victim, David Jon Madson.
This is the story of how a beloved, highly intelligent, and hardworking architect with a promising career in Minneapolis, Minnesota got mixed up with an obsessive, compulsive, controlling, and dangerous personality such as Cunanan.
Who Was David Madson?
By now, many true crime aficionados have probably already binge-watched the highly anticipated and lauded second season of the FX series American Crime Story, which showcased the relationship between Andrew Cunanan and David Madson.
But who was the real Madson? What was he like, and what exactly was his relation to Cunanan?
He was born in Rush City, Chicago County, Minnesota on October 16, 1963 to Howard and Carol Madson.
Madson came from a very close-knit Midwestern family. And it was obvious that he embodied those same family values throughout every aspect of his life.
Pretty much everyone David Madson knew, including his boss and friends, described him as a very charismatic and happy-go-lucky individual who exuded positivity.
He was 33 years old at the time of his untimely and tragic death.
Over the years, there has been a lot of speculation regarding the nature of Cunanan’s relationships to his victims, based largely on eyewitness accounts. One thing that’s known for sure is that he and Madson did, in fact, share a romantic relationship sometime between 1995 and 1996.
Eventually, however, Madson broke things off after discovering what he believed to be a much shadier side of Cunanan’s personality that completely contradicted, and even unraveled, his supposed affluent lifestyle and lively persona.
The Way They Were: How David Met Andrew
Reportedly, Madson and Cunanan met one night in San Francisco, when the former was drinking alone at the bar of a local ritzy restaurant.
Cunanan was there with friends and when he saw Madson alone at the bar, decided to send over a drink to entice him at the behest of his dinner companions.
At the time, Cunanan was working as a high-end gigolo of sorts for wealthy gay men. They gave him monthly allowances and purchased expensive material items for him in exchange for his company.
However, Cunanan always fabricated elaborate stories about where exactly his material wealth came from. This, coupled with his high IQ and knowledge of the finer things in life, gave him a believable air of respectability and made him seem cultured.
When he met Madson, Cunanan was receiving a $2,000 monthly payout from one of his numerous clients named Norman Blachford. The future spree killer was staying at the Mandarin Oriental that night. Madson and Cunanan spent the night there together, but the encounter was allegedly not of a sexual nature.
How It All Came Crashing Down
After several months of dating long distance, and enduring Cunanan’s constant deflective and dishonest behavior, David Madson decided he wanted to call it quits for good. There was simply no reason for him to stay in a relationship with someone he barely spent time with, knew nothing about, and couldn’t trust.
Even Cunanan’s own friends, whom Madson had met many times during his back-and-forth visits to San Francisco, warned him of Cunanan’s untrustworthy behavior. They advised that he couldn’t be trusted.
One of those friends was Jeffrey Trail, the man who ended up being Cunanan’s first murder victim just days before Madson was killed.
According to a Vanity Fair article published in 1997, Madson was “the great unrequited love of Cunanan’s life.”
It wasn’t that Madson didn’t care at all for Cunanan.
On the contrary, he gave Cunanan numerous opportunities to prove himself as a trustworthy and dependable lover. He even put up with a great deal of suspicious and odd behavior that most people would’ve walked away from a lot sooner.
Clearly, the two men shared a deep, romantic connection.
Cunanan described Madson as “the man I want to marry” and “the love of my life.” He even reportedly proposed to Madson sometime in early 1997.
But by then it was too late.
Sick of all of the lying and deception, Madson decided to cut off all romantic ties to Cunanan.
But Cunanan wouldn’t have any of it. He persisted by purchasing expensive dinners, clothes, and other material items for Madson and his friends in an attempt to win them all over.
It didn’t work.
Cunanan’s presence in Madson’s life became almost predatory and unwelcome. Long after Madson had moved on and begun dating other men, Cunanan was still trying to woo his old flame, but the fire had already died out.
That Terrible Weekend in April
Cunanan arrived in Minneapolis on April 25, 1997. There, he stayed with Madson. At some point, he stole Trail’s handgun from his apartment.
On the evening of April 27, 1997, Cunanan lured Trail to Madson’s apartment under the false pretense of wanting to hang out with his two friends.
As soon as Trail stepped foot inside the apartment, Cunanan swiftly attacked him with a claw hammer and beat him to death. He then rolled the body of his friend up inside a carpet.
Likely traumatized by what he had just witnessed, Madson would have complied with whatever Cunanan told him to do.
It’s possible that Madson essentially experienced what’s known as Stockholm syndrome, where victims tend to side with, and often show affection for, their captors.
Over the course of the next few days, it’s alleged that he had more than one opportunity to escape from Cunanan.
For example, eyewitnesses reported having seen the two men walking Madson’s dog, Prints, down the street together. He briefly interacted with one of his neighbors, who later stated that Madson seemed extremely ill at ease, and she could tell something was wrong.
The Great Escape and the Final Chapter
Eventually, they went on the run together, presumably to Mexico, after much cajoling from Cunanan (or perhaps Madson was threatened into it). This is where the details get murkier.
Because Madson and Cunanan were alone during their road trip, nobody knows what really transpired between the two in the days leading up to Madson’s death.
On May 3, a few days later, Madson was found dead with two gunshot wounds near Rush Lake in Minnesota.
The writer of The Assassination of Gianni Versace attempted to fill in some of the missing information by creating a fictionalized version of what may have gone down between Madson and Cunanan in an episode entitled, “House by the Lake.”
The pair is shown traveling through Minnesota together in Madson’s Jeep, and they make a brief pit stop at a local dive bar on the side of the road.
In this episode, Madson is presented with a chance to escape Cunanan’s clutches by sneaking out of the window of the bar, or perhaps even alerting one of the many patrons and workers who were at the bar that night. Instead, he decides to return to his seat next to Cunanan and doesn’t say a word to anyone.
He spends the remainder of the trip trying to convince Cunanan to go to the police and confess to the murder of Jeff Trail, but Cunanan doesn’t take it well, claiming that it’s too late to reclaim their relationship.
He stops on the side of the road, drags Madson out of the vehicle, puts him down on his knees, and shoots him execution style before spending several hours laying down in the greenery next to the lake, holding onto Madson’s body before making a break for it to Miami.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is a fictionalized version of true events. There’s no way of ever knowing the true nature of Madson and Cunanan’s relationship as captor and hostage in those final days since both men are dead.