Andrew Cunanan

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Andrew Cunanan
Cunanan in April 1997
Cunanan in April 1997
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
AliasAndrew DeSilva
BornAndrew Phillip Cunanan
(1969-08-31)August 31, 1969
National City, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 23, 1997(1997-07-23) (aged 27)
Miami Beach, Florida, U.S.
Cause of deathSuicide by firearm
AddedJune 12, 1997
Deceased prior to capture

Andrew Phillip Cunanan (August 31, 1969 – July 23, 1997) was a Filipino-American serial killer known to have murdered five people during a three-month period in mid-1997.[1] His victims included Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace and Chicago real estate developer Lee Miglin.[2] Cunanan's string of murders ended on July 23 of that year, when he committed suicide by shooting himself.

In his final years, Cunanan lived without a job in the greater San Diego area. He befriended wealthy older men[3] and spent their money. To impress acquaintances in the local gay community, he boasted about social events at clubs and often paid the check at restaurants.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

The youngest of four children, Andrew Phillip Cunanan was born August 31, 1969, in National City, California, to Modesto "Pete" Cunanan, a Filipino American,[5] and Mary Anne Schillaci, an Italian American. Modesto was serving in the United States Navy in the Vietnam War at the time of his son's birth. After leaving the Navy, where he had served as a career officer, he worked as a stockbroker.[6]

In his youth, Cunanan lived with his family in Bonita, California, and attended Bonita Vista Middle School.[7] In 1981, Cunanan's father enrolled him in the independent day school The Bishop's School, in the affluent La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. There Cunanan met his lifelong best friend Elizabeth Cote.[6] At school, Cunanan was remembered as being bright and very talkative, and testing with an I.Q. of 147.[8] As a teenager, he developed a reputation as a prolific liar, given to telling fantastic tales about his family and personal life. He was adept at changing his appearance according to what he felt was most attractive at a given moment.[6] He identified as gay in high school, when he began having liaisons with wealthy older men.[9] He was voted "least likely to be forgotten."[10]

In 1988, when Andrew was 19, his father Modesto deserted his family and moved to the Philippines to evade arrest for embezzlement[citation needed]. That same year, Cunanan had begun frequenting local gay clubs and restaurants, and his mother, Mary Anne, who was deeply religious, learned that he was gay. During an argument, Cunanan threw his mother against a wall, dislocating her shoulder. Later examination of his behavior from reports indicates that he may have suffered from antisocial personality disorder, characterized by a lack of remorse and empathy.[11]

After graduating from high school in 1987, Cunanan enrolled at the University of California, San Diego, where he majored in American history.[12] After dropping out two years later, he settled in the Castro District of San Francisco, a center of LGBTQ culture, moving in with Elizabeth Cote and her boyfriend, Phil Merrill.[6]

Adult life[edit]

Collection of FBI photos

Town and Country reported that in San Francisco, Cunanan "became a fixture in the nightlife of the Castro district, a gay neighborhood, befriending wealthy older men, and also reportedly took an interest in creating violent pornography."[6] Cunanan also socialized in the Hillcrest and La Jolla neighborhoods of San Diego, as well as in Scottsdale, Arizona, "apparently living off the largess of one wealthy patron or another."[9] He is also believed to have been dealing drugs.[13] He used several aliases: Andrew DeSilva,[14] Lt. Cmdr. Andy Cummings, Drew Cunningham, and Curt Matthew Demaris.[15]

Cunanan first met designer Gianni Versace in October 1990 in San Francisco.[16] Versace was in town to be feted for the costumes he had designed for the San Francisco Opera production of Richard Strauss's opera Capriccio.[17] Versace's family has always denied that the two men ever met.[18]

In 1996, Cunanan broke up with John Blatchford, a wealthy older man who had been hosting and financially supporting him. Cunanan soon maxed out his credit cards.[10][17] Cunanan's friend Jeffrey "Jeff" Trail, a former U.S. Navy officer working as a district manager for a propane delivery company, had told his former roommate Michael Williams that Cunanan had resumed selling drugs.[19] Cunanan also was known to regularly consume them, especially methamphetamine.[17]

In late April 1997, Cunanan told friends he was leaving San Diego, beginning with a trip to Minneapolis to visit Jeffrey Trail, Cunanan's former lover, and their mutual friend, David Madson, age 33.[14] The latter two had distanced themselves from Cunanan.[20] Trail expected Cunanan to move to San Francisco upon leaving Minneapolis. A week before his death, Trail told Williams that he had had a "huge falling out" with Cunanan and "I made a lot of enemies this weekend ... I've got to get out of here. They're going to kill me."[17]

On April 24, Cunanan and four friends attended a going-away party at Hillcrest's California Cuisine, a rare occasion when Cunanan did not cover the tab.[13] On April 25, he arrived in the Twin Cities and stayed at Madson's loft apartment.[10]


Jeffrey Trail[edit]

Cunanan's killings began in Minneapolis on April 27, 1997, with the murder of his close friend and former lover, 28-year-old Jeffrey Trail. After an argument, Cunanan beat Trail to death with a hammer. He rolled the body in a rug, and placed it over a sofa in a loft apartment belonging to architect David Madson.[4]

David Madson[edit]

33-year-old Madson, who also had once been Cunanan's boyfriend, was his second murder victim. Madson's body was found on the east shore of Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota, on May 3, with gunshot wounds to the head and back from a pistol Cunanan had taken from Trail's home.[21][22]

Lee Miglin[edit]

On May 4, Cunanan drove to Chicago and killed 72-year-old Lee Miglin, a prominent real estate developer. Cunanan bound Miglin's hands and feet and wrapped his head with duct tape. He stabbed Miglin more than twenty times with a screwdriver, slit his throat with a hacksaw, and stole his car.[23]

Cunanan was listed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.[citation needed]

William Reese[edit]

Five days later, in Pennsville Township, New Jersey, at Finn's Point National Cemetery. Cunanan shot and killed 45-year-old caretaker William Reese. He stole his red pickup truck and drove to Florida. While the manhunt unsuccessfully focused on Reese's stolen truck, which Cunanan was using, the killer "hid in plain sight" in Miami Beach, Florida, for two months.[18] He used his own name to pawn a stolen item, despite knowing that police routinely review pawn shop records.[24]

Gianni Versace[edit]

On July 15, Cunanan murdered Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, shooting him twice on the front stairway of his Miami Beach mansion, Casa Casuarina.[25] A witness pursued Cunanan but was unable to catch him.

Responding police found Reese's stolen vehicle in a nearby parking garage. It contained Cunanan's clothes, a Sealand passport[26] and clippings of newspaper reports of Cunanan's murders.[11]


On July 23, 1997, Cunanan's body was found in a luxury houseboat in Miami Beach, after a caretaker reported hearing a gunshot to police.[27] He had shot himself in the head[28] with the .40-caliber Taurus PT92 semiautomatic pistol he had stolen from Jeff Trail; it was the same weapon he used to kill Madson and Versace.[11][24][29]

Cunanan's cremated remains are interred in the mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego.[30]


Cunanan's motivation remains unknown. At the time of the murders, there was extensive public and press speculation that tied the crimes to Cunanan's alleged discovery that he was HIV positive.[31] But an autopsy revealed that he was HIV negative.[32][33]

Although police searched the houseboat where Cunanan died, he left no suicide note and few personal belongings.[3] Investigators were surprised because of Cunanan's reputation for acquiring money and expensive possessions from wealthy older men.[3] Police considered few of the findings to be of note, except multiple tubes of hydrocortisone cream and a fairly extensive collection of fiction by C. S. Lewis.[3][34][35]

In popular culture[edit]

Cunanan was portrayed by Shane Perdue in the film The Versace Murder (1998),[36] Jonathan Trent in the film Murder in Fashion (2009),[37] Luke Morrison in the television film House of Versace (2013), and Darren Criss in The Assassination of Gianni Versace (2018), the second season of the television series American Crime Story.

Cunanan has been the subject of number of true crime television series' episodes: Mugshots on Court TV, with "Andrew Cunanan – The Versace Killer",[38] and Six Degrees Of Murder, with "The Body in the Rug".[citation needed] He has also been featured on ABC's news television series 20/20.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FBI — Serial Killers, Part 6: Andrew Cunanan murders a fashion icon". FBI. Archived from the original on July 2, 2016.
  2. ^ Michael H. Stone & Gary Brucato. The New Evil: Understanding the Emergence of Modern Violent Crime (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2019), pp. 99-104.
  3. ^ a b c d Gibson, Dirk Cameron (2006). Serial Murder and Media Circuses. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 138. ISBN 978-0275990640.
  4. ^ a b Haynes, Dion; Secter, Bob (May 16, 1997). "The many faces of Andrew Cunanan: 'He could win anyone over'". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois: Tronc. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  5. ^ Welkom, Robert W. (September 19, 1997). "Cunanan's father plans documentary on son's life". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e Vargas, Chanel (February 28, 2018). "Who is Andrew Cunanan, the man who murdered Gianni Versace?". Town and Country. New York City: Hearst Magazines.
  7. ^ Kristan Lawson; Anneli Rufus (September 24, 2013). California Babylon: A Guide to Site of Scandal, Mayhem and Celluloid in the Golden State. St. Martin's Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-1-4668-5414-7.
  8. ^ Orth, Maureen (2000). Vulgar Favors. New York City: Dell Publishing. ISBN 9780440225850.
  9. ^ a b Potter, Matt (May 22, 1997). "La Jolla gentlemen and the party boy: Andrew Cunanan – boy toy for socialites Norman Blachford and Lincoln Aston". San Diego Reader.
  10. ^ a b c Kennedy, Helen (May 15, 1997). "Double Life of the party boy: a dark side foretold years ago". New York Daily News. New York City: Tronc. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c Esposito, Danielle; Douglas, John E.; Burgess, Ann W.; Burgess, Allen G. (2006). "Case Study: Andrew Cunanan". In Douglas, John E.; Burgess, Ann W.; Burgess, Allen G. (eds.). Crime Classification Manual: A standard system for investigating and classifying violent crimes (2nd ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons. pp. 448–452. ISBN 9780787985011. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  12. ^ "Andrew Cunanan". Famous Criminals. Archived from the original on July 9, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
  13. ^ a b Zeeland, Steven (July 23, 1997). "Killer queen: Andrew Cunanan, my love rival". The Stranger. Seattle, Washington: Index Newspapers, LLC. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  14. ^ a b "One Good Man". People. August 11, 1997.
  15. ^ Pasternak, Judy; Perry, Tony (July 25, 1997). "Fugitive's death leaves a trail of contradictions". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc.
  16. ^ Miller, Julie (January 17, 2018). "The Truth About Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan's Relationship". Vanity Fair. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  17. ^ a b c d Thomas, Evan (July 27, 1997). "Facing death". Newsweek. New York City: Newsweek/IAC Corporation. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  18. ^ a b Orth, Maureen (September 1997). "The Killer's Trail". Vanity Fair. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  19. ^ Manson, Bill (May 29, 1997). "Friends remember Cunanan victim: Ex-Navy officer Jeff Trail killed with claw hammer". San Diego Reader.
  20. ^ Mente, Anna (February 14, 2018). "Assassination of Gianni Versace, Episode 5, Fact vs. fiction: What American Crime Story got right". Newsweek. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  21. ^ "America's Most Wanted: Andrew Cunanan". Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
  22. ^ Recktenwald, William; Martin, Andrew (May 8, 1997). "New Twist in Miglin Case". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois: Tronc. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  23. ^ Kastor, Elizabeth; Weeks, Linton (July 17, 1997). "Five lives cut short". Washington Post. Washington, DC: Nash Holdings LLC. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  24. ^ a b Phillips, Andrew (August 4, 1997). "Versace's killer kills self". Maclean's. Toronto, Ontario: Rogers Media. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009.
  25. ^ Lecayo, Richard (June 21, 2001). "Tagged for Murder". Time. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  26. ^ Gooch, Adela (April 12, 2000). "Police swoop on Sealand crime ring". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  27. ^ "FBI: Cunanan may have used boat as base". CNN. July 24, 1997. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  28. ^ Herzog, Kenny (March 21, 2018). "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: Fact-checking the season finale, Alone". Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  29. ^ Janofsky, Michael (July 25, 1997). "Suspect's suicide brings relief and normality". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Publishing Company. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
  30. ^ "Andrew Phillip Cunanan (1969–1997)". Find a Grave. Retrieved August 13, 2018. BURIAL: Holy Cross Cemetery San Diego, San Diego County, California, USA; PLOT: Rosary Chapel 6
  31. ^ Cenite, Mark (March 1, 2005). "The Obligation to Qualify Speculation". Journal of Mass Media Ethics. 20 (1): 43–44. doi:10.1207/s15327728jmme2001_4.
  32. ^ "Who is Andrew Cunanan?". CNN. July 17, 1997. Archived from the original on January 12, 2006.
  33. ^ Miami Medical Examiner. Cunanan, Andrew – Autopsy report #1997-01742.
  34. ^ Raworth, Ben (July 2009). "July 15: Gianni Versace Killed". This Day in History. Maxim. San Antonio, Texas: Biglari Holdings. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  35. ^ Stoddard Smith, Tyler (July 18, 2012). Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World's Oldest Profession. Adams, Massachusetts: Adams Media. p. 172. ISBN 978-1440538537.
  36. ^ Madigan, Nick (January 14, 1998). "Versace wraps case in Miami". Variety. Los Angeles, California: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  37. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (January 21, 2010). "Reimagining the culprit in Versace's murder". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  38. ^ Goosenberg Kent, Ellen (Director) & Parsons Peditto, John (Producer) (September 6, 2013). "Andrew Cunanan: Versace's killer". Mugshots. New York City. TruTV. Fisher Klingenstein Films.
  39. ^ "Dying to be famous: The Versace murders". 20/20. July 7, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2018.

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