Andrew Cunanan

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Andrew Cunanan
Cunanan in April 1997
Cunanan in April 1997
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
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 gunshot
AddedJune 12, 1997
Deceased prior to capture

Andrew Phillip Cunanan (August 31, 1969 – July 23, 1997) was an American spree killer[note 1] who murdered five people over three months from April 27 to July 15, 1997.[3] His victims include Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace and Chicago real estate developer Lee Miglin.[4] Cunanan died by suicide on July 23, 1997, eight days after murdering Versace.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

The youngest of four children, Andrew Cunanan was born August 31, 1969, in National City, California, to Modesto "Pete" Dungao Cunanan (June 25, 1930 – June 2, 2005), a Filipino-American,[6] and Mary Anne Schillaci (November 4, 1938 – April 15, 2012), 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 chief petty officer, Modesto worked as a stockbroker.[7]

In his youth, Cunanan lived with his family in National City and attended Bonita Vista Middle School.[8] In 1981, his father enrolled him in The Bishop's School, an independent day school located in the affluent La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. There Cunanan met his lifelong best friend, Elizabeth "Liz" Cote. At school, he was remembered as being bright and very talkative, and testing with an IQ of 147.[9]

As a teenager, Cunanan developed a reputation as a prolific liar, given to telling tall tales about his family and personal life.[7] He was adept at changing his appearance according to what he felt was most attractive at a given moment.[7] Cunanan identified as gay in high school, when he began having liaisons with wealthy older men.[10] He was voted "least likely to be forgotten."[11] After graduating from high school in 1987, Cunanan enrolled at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), where he majored in American history.[12]

In 1988, when Cunanan was 19, his father deserted his family and moved to the Philippines to evade arrest for embezzlement.[13] That same year, Cunanan had begun frequenting local gay clubs and restaurants, and his mother, who was a deeply religious Catholic, learned about his sexual orientation. During an argument, Cunanan threw his mother against a wall, dislocating her shoulder. Later examination of his behavior indicates that he may have suffered from antisocial personality disorder, characterized by a lack of remorse and empathy.[14] In 1989, Cunanan dropped out of UC San Diego and settled in the Castro District of San Francisco, a center of gay culture, moving in with Cote and her boyfriend, Phil Merrill.[7]

Adult life[edit]

Collection of FBI photos

In San Francisco, Cunanan continued his practice of befriending wealthy older men, and also reportedly began creating violent pornography.[7] He also socialized in the Hillcrest and La Jolla neighborhoods of San Diego, as well as in Scottsdale, Arizona, "apparently living off the largesse of one wealthy patron or another."[10] Cunanan is also believed to have been dealing drugs, including prescription opioids, cocaine, and marijuana.[15][16] He used several aliases: Andrew DeSilva,[17] Lt. Cmdr. Andy Cummings, Drew Cunningham, and Curt Matthew Demaris.[18]

Cunanan allegedly first met fashion designer Gianni Versace in San Francisco in October 1990,[19] when Versace was in town to be recognized for the costumes he had designed for the San Francisco Opera production of Richard Strauss's opera Capriccio,[20] although Versace's family has always denied that the two men ever met.[16] In December 1995, Cunanan met David Madson, a Minneapolis architect, in a San Francisco bar. They began a long-distance relationship shortly after, but Madson ended the relationship in the spring of 1996, telling friends he sensed something "shady" about Cunanan.[16][21] Cunanan told friends that Madson was the "love of my life".[13]

In September 1996, Cunanan broke up with Norman Blachford, a wealthy older man who had been hosting and financially supporting him.[16] He soon maxed out his credit cards.[11][20] Cunanan's close friend Jeffrey "Jeff" Trail, a former Naval officer working as a district manager for a propane delivery company in Minneapolis, had told his former roommate Michael Williams that Cunanan had resumed selling drugs.[22] Cunanan also was known to regularly consume these drugs, especially methamphetamine.[20]

By April 1997, friends reported Cunanan was abusing painkillers and was drinking alcohol "like there was no tomorrow".[13][16] Later that month, he told friends he was leaving San Diego for Minneapolis to "take care of some business matters" with Trail,[17] who had recently distanced himself from Cunanan.[23] Trail expected Cunanan to return to San Francisco upon leaving Minneapolis. Before Cunanan's visit, Trail told his sister that he "did not want Andrew to come."[24] A week before his death, Trail told Williams that he had had a "huge falling out" with Cunanan and said, "I made a lot of enemies this weekend ... I've got to get out of here. They're going to kill me."[20]

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.[15] He had reached the credit limit on both his credit cards, and had to ask for a credit extension to afford his plane ticket to Minneapolis.[5] Upon arriving there the next day, Cunanan stayed with Madson, a mutual friend of his and Trail's, in Madson's apartment.[11] That night, Cunanan and Madson dined at Nye's Restaurant and visited The Gay 90's nightclub.[24] On April 26, Cunanan stayed in Trail's apartment while Trail was out of town with his boyfriend, Jon Hackett. The following afternoon, Trail told Hackett that he needed to have a "pretty important" conversation with Cunanan. When Trail and Hackett later returned to the apartment, there was no sign of Cunanan or his belongings. Trail left his apartment to see Cunanan shortly after 9 p.m. and was likely let into Madson's apartment at 9:45 p.m.[16]



Cunanan's motivation remains unknown; at the time of the murders there was extensive public and press speculation linking the crimes to Cunanan's alleged discovery that he was HIV positive,[25] although an autopsy revealed he was HIV negative.[26][27] Although police searched the houseboat where Cunanan died, he left no suicide note and few personal belongings.[28] Investigators noted Cunanan's reputation for acquiring money and expensive possessions from wealthy older men.[28] 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.[28][29][30]

Jeffrey Trail[edit]

Cunanan's killings began in Minneapolis on April 26, 1997, with the murder of his friend, 28-year-old Jeffrey Allen “Jeff” Trail. After an earlier argument in Trail's apartment, Cunanan stole Trail's gun and took it to David Madson's loft apartment. Cunanan rang Trail from Madson's apartment to come and retrieve his gun. On arrival, Cunanan beat Trail to death with a hammer in front of Madson.[5] On April 29, one of Madson's coworkers, concerned about his absence from work, visited his apartment to check on him and discovered Trail's body rolled in a rug and placed behind a sofa.[16] Trail's watch had stopped at 9:55 p.m., believed by authorities to be the time of the killing.[24]

David Madson[edit]

David Jon Madson, 33, was Cunanan's second victim. Authorities believe Madson remained in his apartment with Cunanan two days after Trail's murder, as one neighbor witnessed both men in the apartment elevator on April 28, and another neighbor witnessed the pair walking Madson's dog on April 29.[5][16] Investigators then treated Madson as a suspect in Trail's murder, but Madson's family insisted he was held hostage by Cunanan. On May 2, Madson and Cunanan were seen north of Minneapolis, driving in Madson's Jeep and eating lunch together in a bar.[21] The following morning, Madson's body was found on the east shore of Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota, with gunshot wounds to the head and back from a .40-caliber Taurus PT100 semi-automatic pistol Cunanan had taken from Trail's home.[14][31][32]

Lee Miglin[edit]

On May 3, Cunanan drove to Chicago, Illinois, and killed 72-year-old Lee Albert Miglin, a prominent real estate developer. He bound Miglin's hands and feet and wrapped his head with duct tape, then stabbed him more than twenty times with a screwdriver, slit his throat with a hacksaw, and stole his car.[33] Miglin's family maintain that the killing was random, but former FBI agent Gregg McCrary argues it is unlikely that Cunanan would have bound and tortured Miglin without some motive.[16]

Investigators noted Miglin's 1994 green Lexus LS sedan was missing from his garage and found Madson's red Jeep parked on the street near Miglin's house. Miglin's Lexus was equipped with a car phone, which, according to records, was activated on May 4 in Union County, Pennsylvania. Authorities began monitoring the phone's activity and found it was also activated on May 8 in Philadelphia and on May 9 near Penns Grove and Carneys Point Township, New Jersey.[34]

William Reese[edit]

On May 9, in Pennsville Township, New Jersey, at Finn's Point National Cemetery, Cunanan shot and killed 45-year-old cemetery caretaker William Richard "Bill" Reese. Later that day, when Reese did not return home for dinner, his wife visited the cemetery to check on him and found the caretaker's office door ajar with the radio playing inside. She then called the police, who found Reese shot in the head by the same Taurus pistol Cunanan used to murder Madson.[35] Unlike Cunanan's other victims, whom he killed for seemingly personal reasons, authorities believe Cunanan murdered Reese simply for his 1995 red Chevrolet pickup truck. Cunanan used this truck to drive to Florida.[36]

On May 12, Cunanan began staying at the Normandy Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, where he paid $29 per night in cash.[37] On June 12, he was listed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.[38] While the manhunt unsuccessfully focused on Reese's stolen truck that Cunanan was using, he "hid in plain sight" for two months.[16] Cunanan used his own name to pawn a stolen item on July 7, despite knowing that police routinely reviewed pawn shop records.[39] On July 14, seemingly out of money, Cunanan checked out of his hotel without paying for his last night there.[37]

Entrance to the Versace mansion where Cunanan shot Gianni Versace

Gianni Versace[edit]

Around 8:45 am on July 15, 1997, Cunanan murdered 50-year-old Giovanni Maria "Gianni" Versace on the front steps of Casa Casuarina, his mansion in Miami Beach.[13] Versace was returning from a visit to the News Cafe, where he picked up magazines,[40] when he was shot once in the back of the head and once in the left cheek[41] with the same Taurus pistol Cunanan used to murder Madson and Reese. A witness pursued Cunanan but was unable to catch him as he fled into a nearby parking garage.[3][13] Versace was pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital at 9:21 a.m.[42] Responding police found Reese's stolen vehicle in a nearby parking garage. It contained Cunanan's clothes and clippings of newspaper reports about the earlier murders.[14]


On July 23, 1997, Cunanan's body was found in a luxury houseboat in Miami Beach, after a caretaker reported to police of hearing a gunshot.[43] He had shot himself in the head[44] with the Taurus pistol stolen from Trail; it was the same weapon he used to kill Madson, Reese, and Versace.[14][39][45] Cunanan's cremated remains are interred in the mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego.

In popular culture[edit]

Cunanan was portrayed by Shane Perdue in the film The Versace Murder (1998),[46] Jonathan Trent in the film Murder in Fashion (2009),[47] Luke Morrison in the television film House of Versace (2013), and Darren Criss (who won an Emmy Award for his performance) in The Assassination of Gianni Versace (2018), the second season of the television series American Crime Story. Cunanan has been used in songs by Shyne ("Bad Boyz", 2000) and Modest Mouse ("Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)", 2015)

He has also been the subject of several true crime television series' episodes: Mugshots on Court TV, with "Andrew Cunanan – The Versace Killer",[48] and Six Degrees of Murder, with "The Body in the Rug".[49] He has also been featured on ABC's news television series 20/20,[50] and Investigation Discovery's show Most Evil in various episodes, where he is examined by Columbia University forensic psychiatrist Michael H. Stone,[51] as well as a two hour episode of Dateline NBC. In a 2018 Saturday Night Live sketch featuring John Mulaney, he is mentioned as having portrayed the son in a fictional incest-themed sitcom from 1987, Switcheroo.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cunanan's status as a serial killer versus a spree killer has been disputed. The balance of sources that make a distinction quote him as a spree killer.[1][2]


  1. ^ Douglas, John E.; Olshanker, Mark (1999). The Anatomy Of Motive. New York City: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684857794.
  2. ^ Fuller, John R; Hickey, Eric W (1999). Controversial Issues in Criminology. Allyn and Bacon. p. 36. ISBN 9780205272105.
  3. ^ a b "FBI – Serial Killers, Part 6: Andrew Cunanan murders a fashion icon". FBI. Archived from the original on July 2, 2016.
  4. ^ Stone, Michael H.; Brucato, Gary (2019). The New Evil: Understanding the Emergence of Modern Violent Crime. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. pp. 99–104. ISBN 978-1633885325.
  5. ^ a b c d Haynes, Dion; Secter, Bob (May 16, 1997). "The many faces of Andrew Cunanan: 'He could win anyone over'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 30, 2017.
  6. ^ Welkom, Robert W. (September 19, 1997). "Cunanan's father plans documentary on son's life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e Vargas, Chanel (February 28, 2018). "Who is Andrew Cunanan, the man who murdered Gianni Versace?". Town and Country.
  8. ^ Lawson, Kristan; Rufus, Anneli (September 24, 2013). California Babylon: A Guide to Site of Scandal, Mayhem and Celluloid in the Golden State. New York City: St. Martin's Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-1-4668-5414-7.
  9. ^ Orth, Maureen (2000). Vulgar Favors. New York City: Dell Publishing. ISBN 9780440225850.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ a b c Kennedy, Helen (May 15, 1997). "Double Life of the party boy: a dark side foretold years ago". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on April 16, 2019. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  12. ^ "Andrew Cunanan". Famous Criminals. Archived from the original on July 9, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
  13. ^ a b c d e Lecayo, Richard (June 21, 2001). "Tagged for Murder". Time. New York City. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  14. ^ a b c d 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.
  15. ^ a b Zeeland, Steven (July 23, 1997). "Killer queen: Andrew Cunanan, my love rival". The Stranger. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Orth, Maureen (September 1997). "The Killer's Trail". Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  17. ^ a b "One Good Man". People. August 11, 1997.
  18. ^ Pasternak, Judy; Perry, Tony (July 25, 1997). "Fugitive's death leaves a trail of contradictions". Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ Miller, Julie (January 17, 2018). "The Truth About Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan's Relationship". Vanity Fair. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  20. ^ a b c d Thomas, Evan (July 27, 1997). "Facing death". Newsweek. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  21. ^ a b Suro, Joel Achenbach; Roberto (July 27, 1997). "Death Removes Mystique from Cunanan's Life". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 6, 2020.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ Manson, Bill (May 29, 1997). "Friends remember Cunanan victim: Ex-Navy officer Jeff Trail killed with claw hammer". San Diego Reader.
  23. ^ Mente, Anna (February 14, 2018). "Assassination of Gianni Versace, Episode 5, Fact vs. fiction: What American Crime Story got right". Newsweek. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  24. ^ a b c Johnson, Dirk (July 19, 1997). "First Killing May Offer Clues to Four Others". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  25. ^ Cenite, Mark (March 1, 2005). "The Obligation to Qualify Speculation". Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Oxfordshire, England: Taylor & Francis. 20 (1): 43–44. doi:10.1207/s15327728jmme2001_4. S2CID 145557365.
  26. ^ "Who is Andrew Cunanan?". CNN. July 17, 1997. Archived from the original on January 12, 2006.
  27. ^ Miami Medical Examiner. Cunanan, Andrew – Autopsy report #1997-01742.
  28. ^ a b c Gibson, Dirk Cameron (2006). Serial Murder and Media Circuses. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 138. ISBN 978-0275990640.
  29. ^ Raworth, Ben (July 2009). "July 15: Gianni Versace Killed". This Day in History. Maxim. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "America's Most Wanted: Andrew Cunanan". Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
  32. ^ Recktenwald, William; Martin, Andrew (May 8, 1997). "New Twist in Miglin Case". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  33. ^ Kastor, Elizabeth; Weeks, Linton (July 17, 1997). "Five lives cut short". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  34. ^ "Andrew Phillip Cunanan Part 01 of 01". FBI. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  35. ^ Saltonstall, Dave. "A Nice Guy Caught in a Tortuous Tale". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on January 13, 2020. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  36. ^ Dibdin, Emma (March 1, 2018). "A Complete Timeline of Andrew Cunanan's Murders". Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  37. ^ a b Martin, Andrew; O'Brien, John (July 21, 1997). "Portrait Emerges of a Fugitive's Daily Life". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  38. ^ "Serial Killers, Part 6: Andrew Cunanan". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved January 5, 2020.
  39. ^ a b Phillips, Andrew (August 4, 1997). "Versace's killer kills self". Maclean's. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009.
  40. ^ Bilyeau, Nancy (March 20, 2018). "The True Story of Gianni Versace's Murder". Town and Country. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  41. ^ Yanaz, Luisa (August 21, 1997). "Versace May Have Looked at Killer, Autopsy Shows". Fun Sentinel. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  42. ^ Navarro, Mireya (July 16, 1997). "Versace, Fashion Innovator, Slain in Miami Beach". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  43. ^ "FBI: Cunanan may have used the boathouse as base". CNN. July 24, 1997. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  44. ^ Herzog, Kenny (March 21, 2018). "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: Fact-checking the season finale, Alone". Vulture. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  45. ^ Janofsky, Michael (July 25, 1997). "Suspect's suicide brings relief and normality". The New York Times. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
  46. ^ Madigan, Nick (January 14, 1998). "Versace wraps case in Miami". Variety. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
  47. ^ Catsoulis, Jeannette (January 21, 2010). "Reimagining the culprit in Versace's murder". The New York Times. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  48. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Goosenberg Kent, Ellen (Director) & Parsons Peditto, John (Producer) (September 6, 2013). "Andrew Cunanan: Versace's killer". Mugshots. New York City. TruTV. Fisher Klingenstein Films.
  49. ^ "Six Degrees of Murder". Radio Times. Archived from the original on November 3, 2019. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  50. ^ "Dying to be famous: The Versace murders". IMDb. 20/20. July 7, 2017. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  51. ^ "Most Evil". 2008. Retrieved November 5, 2020 – via

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