Andrew Cunanan

Andrew Phillip Cunanan (August 31, 1969 – July 23, 1997) was an American serial killer who murdered at least five people, including Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace and Chicago real estate developer Lee Miglin, during a three-month period in mid-1997. Cunanan's string of murders ended on July 23 of that year with his suicide by firearm. In his final years, Cunanan lived in the greater San Diego area without a job. He befriended wealthy older men 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. One millionaire friend had broken up with Cunanan in 1996, the prior year.



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Andrew Cunanan
Cunanan in April 1997
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
ChargesSerial murder
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
AddedJune 12, 1997
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 Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace and Chicago real estate developer Lee Miglin, during a three-month period in mid-1997. Cunanan's string of murders ended on July 23 of that year with his suicide by firearm.

In his final years, Cunanan lived in the greater San Diego area without a job. He befriended wealthy older men[2] 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.[3] One millionaire friend had broken up with Cunanan in 1996, the prior year.[3]

Early life and education

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 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.[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, where he would go on to meet his lifelong best friend, Elizabeth Cote.[5] At school, Cunanan was remembered as being bright and very talkative, and testing with an I.Q. of 142.[6] As a teenager, 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] In high school he was voted "least likely to be forgotten".[7]

In 1988, when Andrew was 19, Modesto deserted his family and moved to the Philippines to evade arrest for embezzlement.[8] That same year, Cunanan – who identified as 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, characterized by a lack of remorse and 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, moving in with Elizabeth Cote and her boyfriend, Phil Merrill.[5]

Adult life

Collection of FBI photos showing the ease with which Cunanan could change appearance

Town and Country reported that in San Francisco, 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,"[9] and at least in part, supporting himself by dealing drugs.[8]

Cunanan first met Gianni Versace, whom he would eventually kill, in 1990 in San Francisco.[14] Versace was in town to be feted for the costumes he had designed for the San Francisco Opera production of Richard Strauss' Capriccio.[15]

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

In late April 1997, Cunanan told friends he was leaving San Diego, beginning with a trip to Minneapolis to visit David Madson, 33, an up-and-coming architect and Cunanan's former lover, and their mutual friend, Jeff Trail, 28, a former U.S. Navy officer working as a district manager for a propane delivery company.[17] Both had distanced themselves from him.[18] Trail expected Cunanan to move to San Francisco upon leaving Minneapolis. 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 tab.[8] On April 25, Cunanan arrived in the Twin Cities and stayed at Madson's loft apartment.[7]


Jeffrey Trail

Cunanan's serial killings began in Minneapolis on April 27, 1997, with the murder of his close friend, Jeffrey Trail, a former U.S. 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]

David Madson

Madson, who 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 the home of his first victim, Jeff Trail.[19][20]

Lee Miglin

Cunanan next drove to Chicago and killed 72 year-old Lee Miglin, a prominent real estate developer, on May 4. Cunanan bound Miglin's hands and feet and wrapped his head with duct tape. He then stabbed Miglin over 20 times with a screwdriver and cut open his throat with a hacksaw.[21] Following this murder, Cunanan became the 449th fugitive in the United States to be listed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

William Reese

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

While the manhunt unsuccessfully focused on Reese's stolen truck, which Cunanan still had, he "hid in plain sight" in Miami Beach, Florida for two months.[22] Cunanan even used his own name to pawn a stolen item, despite knowing that police routinely review pawn shop records.[23]

Gianni Versace

On July 15, Cunanan murdered Italian fashion designer, Gianni Versace, shooting him twice on the front stairway of his Miami Beach mansion, Casa Casuarina.[24] A witness attempted to pursue Cunanan, but was unable to catch him.

Responding police found Reese's stolen vehicle parked in a nearby parking garage, which contained Cunanan's clothes, a Sealand passport,[25] and clipped newspaper reports of Cunanan's murders.[10]


In the upstairs bedroom of a Miami Beach houseboat on July 23, eight days after killing Versace and with law enforcement hot on his trail, Cunanan killed himself with a gunshot through the mouth.[26] Cunanan used a .40 S&W caliber Taurus PT100 semi-automatic pistol which he had stolen from Jeff Trail, the first of his five victims, to commit suicide with — the same gun he used to kill Madson, Reese, and Versace.[10][23][27]

Cunanan's cremated remains are interred in the mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego.[28]


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;[29] however, an autopsy found him to be HIV negative.[30][31]

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][32][33]


Cunanan was portrayed by Shane Perdue in the film The Versace Murder (1998),[34] and by Luke Morrison in the television film House of Versace (2013). He also was shown in “American Crime Story : The Assassination Of Gianni Versace” portrayed by Darren Criss in 2018. In 1999, director William Friedkin wanted Freddie Prinze, Jr. to portray Cunanan in a film that never materialized, titled The Man Who Killed Versace.

Jonathan Trent portrayed Cunanan in the 2009 film Murder in Fashion a.k.a. Fashion Victim.[35]


American rock band Modest Mouse's album Strangers to Ourselves (2015) includes a song named after the case: "Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996)". Belizean rapper Shyne mentions Andrew Cunanan in one of the verses of his 2000 hit song “Bad Boyz”.


Cunanan was portrayed by Darren Criss in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, which premiered on January 17, 2018. Criss won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie" and a Golden Globe Award for "Best Actor – Miniseries, or Television Film" for his portrayal.[36]

The television series Mugshots on Court TV released an episode covering Cunanan, titled "Andrew Cunanan - The Versace Killer".[37]

Another true-crime show, Six Degrees Of Murder, featured Cunanan's crimes in "The Body in the Rug," the premiere episode of its first season, when it premiered on Investigation Discovery on July 13, 2016.[citation needed]

The American Broadcasting Company documentary and news series 20/20 released an episode reporting on evidence tying Cunanan to the murder of Versace.[38][39][40]


  1. "FBI — Serial Killers, Part 6: Andrew Cunanan murders a fashion icon". FBI. Archived from the original on July 2, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Gibson, Dirk Cameron (2006). Serial Murder and Media Circuses. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 138.
  3. 1 2 3 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. (19 September 1997). "Cunanan's father plans documentary on son's life". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: Tronc. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Vargas, Chanel (28 February 2018). "Who is Andrew Cunanan, the man who murdered Gianni Versace?". Town and Country. New York City: Hearst Magazines.
  6. Orth, Maureen (2000). Vulgar Favors. New York City: Dell Publishing. ISBN 9780440225850.
  7. 1 2 3 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.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Zeeland, Steven (July 23, 1997). "Killer queen: Andrew Cunanan, my love rival". The Stranger. Seattle, Washington: Index Newspapers, LLC. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  9. 1 2 Potter, Matt (22 May 1997). "La Jolla gentlemen and the party boy: Andrew Cunanan – boy toy for socialites Norman Blachford and Lincoln Aston". San Diego Reader.
  10. 1 2 3 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 9780787985011. Retrieved 10 April 2011.
  11. "Andrew Cunanan". Famous Criminals. Archived from the original on July 9, 2009. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
  12. "One Good Man". People. 11 August 1997.
  13. Pasternak, Judy; Perry, Tony (25 July 1997). "Fugitive's death leaves a trail of contradictions". Los Angeles Times.
  14. Miller, Julie (January 17, 2018). "The Truth About Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan's Relationship". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  15. 1 2 3 4 Thomas, Evan (July 27, 1997). "Facing death". Newsweek. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  16. Manson, Bill (29 May 1997). "Friends remember Cunanan victim: Ex-Navy officer Jeff Trail killed with claw hammer". San Diego Reader.
  17. "One Good Man". People. 11 August 1997.
  18. 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.
  19. "America's Most Wanted': Andrew Cunanan". Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2010.
  20. Recktenwald, William; Martin, Andrew (May 8, 1997). "New Twist in Miglin Case". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois: Tronc. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
  21. Kastor, Elizabeth; Weeks, Linton (17 July 1997). "Five lives cut short". Washington Post. Washington, DC: Nash Holdings LLC. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  22. Orth, Maureen (September 1997). "The Killer's Trail". Vanity Fair. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  23. 1 2 Phillips, Andrew (4 August 1997). "Versace's killer kills self". Maclean's. Toronto, Ontario: Rogers Media. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009.
  24. Lecayo, Richard (June 21, 2001). "Tagged for Murder". Time. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved March 2, 2018.
  25. Gooch, Adela (12 April 2000). "Police swoop on Sealand crime ring". The Guardian. London, England: Guardian Media Group. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  26. Herzog, Kenny (March 21, 2018). "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: Fact-checking the season finale, Alone". Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  27. 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.
  28. "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
  29. Cenite, Mark (March 1, 2005). "The Obligation to Qualify Speculation". Journal of Mass Media Ethics. 20 (1): 43–44. doi:10.1207/s15327728jmme2001_4.
  30. "Who is Andrew Cunanan?". CNN. July 17, 1997. Archived from the original on 12 January 2006.
  31. Miami Medical Examiner. Cunanan, Andrew – Autopsy report #1997-01742.
  32. 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.
  33. Stoddard Smith, Tyler (July 18, 2012). Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World's Oldest Profession. Adams, Massachusetts: Adams Media. p. 172.
  34. Madigan, Nick (14 January 1998). "Versace wraps case in Miami". Variety. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  35. Catsoulis, Jeannette (21 January 2010). "Reimagining the culprit in Versace's murder". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  36. Nemetz, Dave (17 November 2017). "American Crime Story: Versace gets January premiere date on FX". Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  37. Goosenberg Kent, Ellen (Director) & Parsons Peditto, John (Producer) (6 September 2013). "Andrew Cunanan: Versace's killer". Mugshots. New York City. TruTV. Fisher Klingenstein Films.
  38. Dying to be famous: The Versace Murders, series 20/20, season 40, episode 45, first aired July 7, 2017, runtime 40 minutes
  39. "Dying to be famous: The Versace murders". 20/20. 7 July 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  40. "ABC News' 20/20 searches for answers in the murder of legendary designer Gianni Versace, Friday 7 July". ABC Television. 5 July 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2018.

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