Andrew Cunanan

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Andrew Cunanan
Andrew Cunanan in April 1997
Andrew Cunanan in April 1997
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
Charges Serial murder
Alias David Morales
Born Andrew Phillip Cunanan
(1969-08-31)August 31, 1969
National City, California, U.S
Died July 23, 1997(1997-07-23) (aged 27)
Miami Beach, Florida, U.S
Cause of death Suicide (Gunshot to the head)
Nationality American
Added June 12, 1997
Number 449
Deceased prior to capture

Andrew Phillip Cunanan (August 31, 1969 – July 23, 1997) was an American serial killer[1] who murdered at least five people, including fashion designer Gianni Versace and Chicago tycoon Lee Miglin, during a three-month period in mid-1997. On June 12, 1997, Cunanan became the 449th fugitive to be listed by the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The string of murders by Cunanan ended on July 23rd with Cunanan's suicide by firearm. He was 27 years old.

In his final years, Cunanan had lived without a specific job, befriending wealthy older men[2] and spending their money to impress acquaintances in the local gay community, such as boasting about social events at clubs or often paying the check at restaurants.[3] One millionaire friend had dumped Cunanan in 1996, the prior year.[3]

Early life[edit]

A collection of photos from the FBI, showing the ease with which Cunanan could change his appearance.

Cunanan was born in National City, California, to Modesto Cunanan, a Filipino American, and Mary Anne Schillaci, an Italian American, the youngest of four children. Modesto Cunanan was serving in the US Navy in the Vietnam War at the time of his son's birth.

In 1981, Cunanan's father enrolled him in the independent day school, The Bishop's School in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. At school, Cunanan was remembered as being bright and very talkative, testing with an I.Q. of 147.[4] As a teenager, however, he developed a reputation as a prolific liar given to telling fantastic tales about his family and personal life. He was also adept at changing his appearance according to what he felt was most attractive at a given moment.

When he was 19, his father deserted his family to avoid arrest for embezzlement. That same year, his mother learned that Cunanan was gay. During an ensuing argument, he threw her against a wall, dislocating her shoulder. Later examination of his behavior from reports indicate that he may have suffered from antisocial personality disorder, a personality disorder characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy (earlier known as psychopathy).[5]

After graduating from high school in 1987, he enrolled at the University of California, San Diego, where he majored in American history.[6] After dropping out, he settled in the Castro District of San Francisco.


Cunanan's killing spree began in Minneapolis on April 27, 1997, with the murder of San Diego acquaintance Jeffrey Trail, a former US naval officer and propane salesman. Following an argument, Cunanan beat Trail to death with a claw hammer and left his body rolled in a rug in a closet in a loft-apartment belonging to David Madson, his next victim.[3]

Architect David Madson, who had once been Cunanan's lover, was the second to be killed; his body was found on the east shore of Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota, on May 3, 1997, with gunshot wounds to the head and back.[7][8]

Cunanan next drove to Chicago and killed 72-year-old Lee Miglin, a prominent real estate developer, on May 4, 1997. Miglin had been bound with duct tape on his hands and feet and wrapped around his head. He was then stabbed over 20 times with a screwdriver and had his throat sawed open with a hacksaw.[9] Following this murder, the FBI added Cunanan to its Ten Most Wanted list.

Five days later, Cunanan, who took Miglin's car, found his fourth victim in Pennsville, New Jersey, at the Finn's Point National Cemetery, killing 45-year-old caretaker William Reese and stealing his red pick-up truck. Reese had been shot to death.[9] While the manhunt focused on Reese's truck, Cunanan "hid in plain sight" in Miami Beach, Florida for two months between his fourth and fifth murders.[10] He even used his own name to pawn a stolen item, knowing that police routinely check pawn shop records for stolen merchandise.[11]

On July 15, 1997, Cunanan murdered Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, shooting him twice on the front stairway of his Miami mansion.[12] A witness attempted to pursue him but was unable to catch up to him. Reese's stolen truck, as well as Cunanan's clothes, an alternative passport, and newspaper clippings of Cunanan's murders, were found in a nearby parking garage by responding police officers.[5]


On July 23, 1997, eight days after killing Versace, Cunanan killed himself via a self-inflicted gunshot to the right temple in the upstairs bedroom of a Miami houseboat. He used the same gun he had used to kill Madson, Reese, and Versace:[5][13] a Taurus PT100 semi-automatic pistol in .40 S&W caliber, which had been stolen from the first victim, Jeff Trail. His cremated remains are interred in the Mausoleum at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in San Diego, California.[14]


Cunanan's precise motivation remains unknown. At the time of the murders, there was extensive public and press speculation that tied the crimes to Cunanan discovering that he was HIV positive; however, an autopsy found him to be HIV negative.[15][16]

Though police searched the houseboat where Cunanan died, he left no suicide note and few personal belongings,[2] surprising investigators, given his reputation for acquiring money and expensive possessions from wealthy older men.[2] Police considered few of the findings to be of note, except multiple tubes of hydrocortisone cream and a fairly extensive collection of the fiction of C. S. Lewis.[2][17][18]

In popular culture[edit]

The American Court TV (now TruTV) television series Mugshots released an episode covering Cunanan, titled Andrew Cunanan The Versace Killer.[19]

American rock band Modest Mouse's 2015 album Strangers to Ourselves has a song named after the case: "Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)".

Cunanan will be portrayed by Darren Criss in the second season of the anthology series American Crime Story in January 2018.[20]


  1. ^ "FBI — Serial Killers, Part 6: Andrew Cunanan Murders a Fashion Icon". FBI. Archived from the original on 2016-07-02. 
  2. ^ a b c d Dirk Cameron Gibson, Serial Murder and Media Circuses, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006. p. 138.
  3. ^ a b c Dion Haynes and Bob Secter, Tribune Staff Writers. Dion Haynes reported in San Diego; staff writers Bob Secter, Andrew Martin, Flynn McRoberts and Eric Ferkenhoff in Chicago (May 16, 1997). "The Many Faces of Andrew Cunanan: 'He Could Win Anyone Over'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2017-04-30. 
  4. ^ Orth, Maureen (14 June 2000). Vulgar Favors. Dell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-440-22585-0. 
  5. ^ a b c Danielle Esposito; John E. Douglas; Ann W. Burgess; Allen G. Burgess (2006). "Case Study: Andrew Cunanan". In John E. Douglas; Ann W. Burgess; Allen G. Burgess. Crime classification manual: a standard system for investigating and classifying violent crimes (2 ed.). John Wiley and Sons. pp. 448–452. ISBN 978-0-7879-8501-1. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Famous Criminals: Andrew Cunanan". Archived from the original on 2009-07-09. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  7. ^ "''America's Most Wanted'': Andrew Cunanan". Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  8. ^ "New Twist in Miglin Case". Chicago Tribune. 8 May 1997. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Kastor, Elizabeth, Weeks, Linton. "Five Lives Cut Short". Washington Post. July 17, 1997.
  10. ^ Geringer, Joseph. "Andrew Cunanan: After Me, Disaster: Unlike a Fugitive"
  11. ^ Phillips, Andrew. "Versace's Killer Kills Self" Archived June 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Maclean's August 4, 1997.
  12. ^ Lecayo, Richard. "Tagged for Murder". Time Magazine, June 21, 2001.
  13. ^ Janofsky, Michael (July 25, 1997). "Suspect's Suicide Brings Relief and Normality". The New York Times. Retrieved August 4, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Andrew Phillip Cunanan (1969–1997) – Find A Grave Memorial". 
  15. ^ "Who is Andrew Cunanan?" Archived January 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.,, 17 July 1997.
  16. ^ Cunanan, Andrew – Autopsy report #1997-01742, Miami Medical Examiner.
  17. ^ "This Day in History: July 15: Gianni Versace Killed". Maxim. July 2009. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. 
  18. ^ Tyler Stoddard Smith, Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World's Oldest Profession, p. 172
  19. ^ "MUGSHOTS: ANDREW CUNANAN – THE VERSACE KILLER". FilmRise. Retrieved 8 November 2017. 
  20. ^ "American Crime Story: Versace Gets January Premiere Date on FX". Retrieved November 9, 2017. 


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