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
Born Andrew Phillip Cunanan
(1969-08-31)August 31, 1969
National City, California, United States
Died July 23, 1997(1997-07-23) (aged 27)
Miami Beach, Florida, United States
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 spree 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 on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Cunanan's string of murders ended on July 23 with his 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, by boasting about social events at clubs and often paying the check at restaurants.[3] One millionaire friend had broken up with Cunanan in 1996, the prior year.[3] Actor Darren Criss portrays Cunanan in Ryan Murphy's 2018 production, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.

Early life and education[edit]

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

Andrew Phillip Cunanan was born August 31, 1969 in National City, California, to Modesto "Pete" Cunanan, a Filipino American,[4] and Mary Anne Schillaci, an Italian American, the youngest of four children. Modesto was serving in the US 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.[5]

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.[5] At school, Cunanan was remembered as being bright and very talkative, and testing with an I.Q. of 147.[6] 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.[5] Nonetheless, in high school he was voted Least Likely to be Forgotten.[7]

In 1988, when Cunanan was 19, Modesto deserted his family and moved to the Philippines, to avoid arrest for embezzlement.[8] That same year, Cunanan—who was openly gay in high school and even then had liaisons with wealthy older men[8][9]—had begun frequenting local gay clubs and restaurants, and his deeply religious mother Mary Anne learned that Cunanan 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, a personality disorder characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy.[10]

After graduating from high school in 1987, Cunanan enrolled at the University of California, San Diego, where he majored in American History.[11] After dropping out, two years later, he settled in the Castro District of San Francisco.[5]

Adult life[edit]

In San Francisco, Town and Country reports, Cunanan - who also used the aliases Andrew DeSilva,[12] Lt. Cmdr. Andy Cummings, Drew Cunningham, and Curt Matthew Demaris[13] - "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."[5] 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",[14] and at least, in part, supporting himself by dealing drugs.[8]

In 1990, Cunanan met Gianni Versace at Colossus, a San Francisco nightclub.[5] Versace was in town to be feted for the costumes he had designed for the opera Capriccio.[15]

In 1996, Cunanan and Norman Blachford, the wealthy older man who had been hosting and financially supporting him, broke up. Cunanan, now on his own, maxed out his credit cards.[15][7] Cunanan's friend, Jeffrey "Jeff" Trail, had told Trail's former roommate, Michael Williams, that Cunanan had resumed his old profession: selling drugs.[16] Cunanan also began increasingly consuming them.[15]

In late April 1997, Cunanan told friends he was leaving town, beginning with a visit to Minneapolis to visit two men (both of whom had distanced themselves from him): his former lover David Madson, 33, an up-and-coming architect, and their mutual friend Trail, 28, a district manager at the propane delivery company[17] Ferrellgas and former US Navy officer,[12] after which Cunanan was moving to San Francisco. (A week before Cunanan killed him, Trail had 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.")[15]

On April 24, Cunanan and four friends attended a going away party at California Cuisine, a rare occasion when Cunanan did not cover the food tab.[8] On April 25, Cunanan arrived in the Twin Cities and stayed at Madson's loft apartment.[7]


Cunanan's killing spree began in Minneapolis on April 27, 1997, with the murder of his close friend Jeffrey Trail, a former US Navy 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 loft apartment belonging to architect David Madson.[3]

Madson, who had once been Cunanan's lover, was his second murder victim; Madson's 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.[18][19]

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 securing 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.[20] Following this murder, the FBI added Cunanan to its Ten Most Wanted list.

Five days later, Cunanan, who had taken Miglin's car, found his fourth victim in Pennsville, New Jersey, at Finn's Point National Cemetery. Cunanan shot and killed 45-year-old caretaker William Reese, then stole his red pickup truck.

While the manhunt focused on Reese's stolen truck, Cunanan "hid in plain sight" in Miami Beach, Florida, for two months, before committing his fifth and final murder.[21] He even used his own name to pawn a stolen item, despite knowing that police routinely check pawn shop records for stolen merchandise.[22]

On July 15, 1997, Cunanan murdered Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, by shooting him twice on the front stairway of Casa Casuarina, Versace's Miami Beach mansion.[23] A witness attempted to pursue Cunanan but was unable to catch up to him. Responding police officers found Reese's stolen vehicle, as well as Cunanan's clothes, an alternative passport, and newspaper clippings of Cunanan's murders, in a nearby parking garage.[10]


On July 23, 1997, eight days after killing Versace and with law enforcement hot on his trail, Cunanan killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot through the mouth,[24] in the upstairs bedroom of a Miami Beach houseboat. He used the same gun he had used to kill Madson, Reese, and Versace:[10][22][25] a Taurus PT100 semi-automatic pistol in .40 S&W caliber, which he had stolen from the first victim, Jeff Trail. Cunanan's cremated remains are interred in the mausoleum at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in San Diego, California.[citation needed]


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's discovery that he was HIV positive;[26] however, an autopsy found him to be HIV negative.[27][28]

Although 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 fiction by C. S. Lewis.[2][29][30]

In popular culture[edit]


Cunanan is portrayed by Shane Perdue in the film The Versace Murder (1998),[31] and by Luke Morrison in the television film House of Versace (2013).


Indiana, Gary. Three Month Fever: The Andrew Cunanan Story. Cliff Street/HarperCollins. 

Orth, Maureen. Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History. ISBN 044022585X. 


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


Cunanan is portrayed by Darren Criss in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, the second season of the anthology series American Crime Story, which premiered on January 17, 2018.[32]

The Court TV (now TruTV) television series Mugshots released an episode covering Cunanan, titled "Andrew Cunanan - The Versace Killer".[33]


  1. ^ "FBI — Serial Killers, Part 6: Andrew Cunanan Murders a Fashion Icon". FBI. Archived from the original on July 2, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Gibson, Dirk Cameron (2006). Serial Murder and Media Circuses. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 138. 
  3. ^ a b c 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. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Vargas, Chanel (February 28, 2018). "Who is Andrew Cunanan, the Man Who Murdered Gianni Versace?". Town and Country. 
  6. ^ Orth, Maureen (2000). Vulgar Favors. New York City: Dell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-440-22585-0. 
  7. ^ a b c Kennedy, Helen (May 15, 1997). "Double Life of the party boy: a dark side foretold years ago". 
  8. ^ a b c d Zeeland, Steven (July 23, 1997). "Killer Queen: Andrew Cunanan, My Love Rival". The Stranger. Seattle. 
  9. ^ 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 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. 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 978-0-7879-8501-1. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Famous Criminals: Andrew Cunanan". Archived from the original on July 9, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b PEOPLE STAFF (August 11, 1997). "One Good Man". People. 
  13. ^ Pasternak, Judy & Perry, Tony (TIMES STAFF WRITERS) (July 25, 1997). "Fugitive's Death Leaves a Trail of Contradictions". Los Angeles Times. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ a b c d Thomas, Evan (July 27, 1997). "Facing Death". Newsweek. 
  16. ^ Manson, Bill (May 29, 1997). "Friends Remember Cunanan Victim: Ex-Navy officer Jeff Trail killed with claw hammer". San Diego Reader. 
  17. ^ Menta, Anna (February 14, 2018). "'Assassination of Gianni Versace' Episode 5 Fact Vs. Fiction: What 'American Crime Story' got right". Newsweek. 
  18. ^ "'America's Most Wanted': Andrew Cunanan". Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2010. 
  19. ^ Recktenwald, William; Martin, Andrew (May 8, 1997). "New Twist in Miglin Case". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois: Tronc. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  20. ^ Kastor, Elizabeth; Weeks, Linton (July 17, 1997). "Five Lives Cut Short". Washington Post. Washington, DC: Nash Holdings LLC. Retrieved March 2, 2018. 
  21. ^ Orth, Maureen (September 1997). "The Killer's Trail". Vanity Fair. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved March 2, 2018. 
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ Lecayo, Richard (June 21, 2001). "Tagged for Murder". Time. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved March 2, 2018. 
  24. ^ Herzog, Kenny (March 21, 2018). "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: Fact-checking the Season Finale, 'Alone'". Retrieved April 25, 2018. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ Cenite, Mark (March 1, 2005). "The Obligation to Qualify Speculation". Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Abingdon, Oxford: Taylor & Francis Group. 20 (1): 43-44. doi:10.1207/s15327728jmme2001_4. Retrieved April 25, 2018. 
  27. ^ "Who is Andrew Cunanan?". CNN. July 17, 1997. Archived from the original on January 12, 2006. 
  28. ^ Miami Medical Examiner. Cunanan, Andrew – Autopsy report #1997-01742. 
  29. ^ 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. 
  30. ^ Stoddard Smith, Tyler (July 18, 2012). Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World's Oldest Profession. Adams, Massachusetts: Adams Media. p. 172. 
  31. ^ Madigan, Nick (January 14, 1998). "Versace wraps case in Miami". Variety. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved February 10, 2018. 
  32. ^ Nemetz, Dave (November 17, 2017). "American Crime Story: Versace Gets January Premiere Date on FX". Retrieved November 9, 2017. 
  33. ^ Goosenberg Kent, Ellen (Director) & Parsons Peditto, John (Producer) (September 6, 2013). "Andrew Cunanan: Versace's Killer". Mugshots. New York City. TruTV. Fisher Klingenstein Films. 


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