By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Twenty-five years ago Wednesday, a serial killer began his cross-country murder spree in the heart of Minneapolis. In the end, the string of killings claimed five lives, including renowned fashion designer Gianni Versace.

The first two of Andrew Cunanan’s victims were killed in Minnesota. WCCO’s Esme Murphy traveled the country to cover the case 25 years ago, and has continued to follow it ever since. Now, for the first time, she shares newly uncovered questions surrounding the deaths of Jeffrey Trail and David Madson.

READ MORE: 20 Years Ago, Andrew Cunanan's Killing Spree Began In Minneapolis

Chisago County Sheriff Chris Henricks remembers the call to an unlikely homicide scene. The body would turn out to be Madson’s. He was a successful 30-year-old architect from Minneapolis.

David Madson’s body was found on private property in a wooded area by East Rush Lake. It’s an obscure spot that is difficult to find, a location that has baffled investigators for 25 years.

“[Madson] had a defensive wound where, you could see where he actually probably put his hand up and a bullet had went through it, because he was actually struck like in the eye area,” Henricks said. “There was some connection to Rush Lake. I mean, it’s not a deal where you just, I’m going to drive an hour from the cities and I’m going to murder this person.”

Madson turned out to be the second of Cunanan’s victims. The first, Naval Academy graduate Jeffrey Trail, was beaten to death with a claw hammer and rolled into a carpet in Madson’s loft in the Minneapolis Warehouse District.

In a period of 12 weeks, five men were murdered. The last, Gianni Versace, was gunned down on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion. By then, investigators knew they were looking for Cunanan, a 27-year-old man from San Diego.

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Investigators went back to the beginning and determined both Madson and Trail had dated Cunanan. Posters went up in gay nightclubs around the country.

But WCCO has learned that investigators never went to a hub of the Minneapolis gay nightclub scene, the Gay 90s. Witnesses would later say they had seen Cunanan at the club. Mike Bloom, then the club’s owner, says he’s convinced he talked to Cunanan, who was having coffee in the bar’s early morning hours.

“It was like about 8:45 in the morning, and we weren’t that busy at the time. And he was siting like in a back booth, so we went to start talking to him, me and the bartender,” Bloom said. “It’s weird that I can picture who he was then. He said, ‘I have got some stuff I got to go do, you know, down in the loft.'”

Bloom’s account is consistent with numerous sightings of Cunanan in the downtown area, all before Cunanan was named as the killer.

“I talked to him for about 15 minutes,” Bloom said. “Very nice guy.”

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But could a more aggressive investigation of the first two murders in Minneapolis have prevented the next three killings? Eight days after Versace’s murder, Cunanan died by suicide in a Miami houseboat, also almost certainly killing any chances for answers to so many of these questions.

Esme Murphy