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Andrew Cunanan

Andrew Cunanan

American spree killer
Andrew Cunanan
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American spree killer
Was Criminal Murderer Spree killer Prostitute Serial killer
From United States of America
Type Crime
Gender male
Birth 31 August 1969, National City, USA
Death 23 July 1997, Miami Beach Architectural District, USA (aged 27 years)
Star sign Virgo
University of California, San Diego
The details (from wikipedia)


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

In his final years, Cunanan lived without a job in the greater San Diego area. 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.

Early life and education

The youngest of four children, Andrew Phillip Cunanan was born August 31, 1969, in National City, California, to Modesto "Pete" Cunanan, a Filipino American, 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 chief petty officer, he worked as a stockbroker.

In his youth, Cunanan lived with his family in National City, California, and attended Bonita Vista Middle School. 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. At school, Cunanan was remembered as being bright and very talkative, and testing with an IQ of 147.

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. He identified as gay in high school, when he began having liaisons with wealthy older men. He was voted "least likely to be forgotten."

After graduating from high school in 1987, Cunanan enrolled at the University of California, San Diego, where he majored in American history. In 1988, when Andrew was 19, his father Modesto deserted his family and moved to the Philippines to evade arrest for embezzlement. 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.

In 1989, Cunanan dropped out of UC San Diego and settled in the Castro District of San Francisco, a center of LGBTQ culture, moving in with Elizabeth Cote and her boyfriend, Phil Merrill.

Adult life

Collection of FBI photos

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." Cunanan 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." He is also believed to have been dealing drugs, including prescription opioids, cocaine, and marijuana. He used several aliases: Andrew DeSilva, Lt. Cmdr. Andy Cummings, Drew Cunningham, and Curt Matthew Demaris.

Cunanan first met designer Gianni Versace in October 1990 in San Francisco. 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. Versace's family has always denied that the two men ever met.

Cunanan met David Madson, a Minneapolis architect, in a San Francisco bar in December 1995. 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. Cunanan told friends Madson was the "love of my life."

In September 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. Cunanan's close friend Jeffrey "Jeff" Trail, a former U.S. Navy 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. Cunanan also was known to regularly consume these drugs, especially methamphetamine.

In April 1997, friends reported Cunanan was using pain killers and was drinking alcohol "like there was no tomorrow." Later that month, Cunanan told friends he was leaving San Diego for Minneapolis to "take care of some business matters" with Trail, who had recently distanced himself from Cunanan. Trail expected Cunanan to move to San Francisco upon leaving Minneapolis. Before Cunanan's visit, Trail told his sister that he "did not want Andrew to come." 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."

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. 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.

On April 25, Cunanan arrived in Minneapolis and stayed with Madson, a mutual friend between Cunanan and Trail, in his loft apartment. That night, Cunanan and Madson dined at Nye's Restaurant and visited The Gay 90's nightclub. On April 26, Cunanan stayed in Trail's apartment while Trail was out of town with his boyfriend, Jon Hackett. On the afternoon of April 27, Trail told Hackett that he needed to have a "pretty important" conversation with Cunanan. When Trail and Hackett later arrived at Trail's apartment, there was no sign of Cunanan or his belongings. Trail left his apartment to see Cunanan shortly after 9pm and was likely let into Madson's apartment at 9:45pm.


Jeffrey Trail

Cunanan's killings began in Minneapolis on April 27, 1997, with the murder of his close friend, 28-year-old Jeffrey Trail. After an argument in Madson's apartment, Cunanan beat Trail to death with a hammer. On April 29, two of Madson's coworkers, concerned about Madson's absence from work, visited his apartment to check on him. They discovered Trail's body rolled in a rug and placed behind a sofa. Trail's watch had stopped at 9:55pm, believed by authorities to be the time of the killing.

David Madson

33-year-old Madson was his second murder victim. Authorities believe Madson remained in his apartment with Cunanan two days after Trail's murder, as one neighbor witnessed both Madson and Cunanan in the apartment elevator on April 28, and another neighbor witnessed the pair walking Madson's Dalmatian on April 29. Investigators initially 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. On the morning of May 3, 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 semiautomatic pistol Cunanan had taken from Trail's home.

Lee Miglin

On May 4, Cunanan drove to Chicago, Illinois 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. Miglin's family maintain that the killing was random, but former FBI agent Gregg McCrary argues it's unlikely that Cunanan would have found and tortured Miglin without some motive.

Investigators noted Miglin's 1994 green Lexus LS sedan 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 Ameritech Cellular records, was activated on May 4 in Union County, Pennsylvania. Authorities began monitoring this phone's activity, and found it was also activated on May 8 in Philadelphia, and again on May 9 near Penns Grove and Carney's Point, New Jersey.

William Reese

On May 9, in Pennsville Township, New Jersey, at Finn's Point National Cemetery, Cunanan shot and killed 45-year-old caretaker William Reese. Later that day, when Reese didn't 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. 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.

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

Gianni Versace

On July 15 at around 8:45am, Cunanan murdered 50-year-old Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace on the front stairway of his Miami Beach mansion, Casa Casuarina. Versace was returning from a visit to the News Cafe, where he picked up coffee and magazines, when he was shot twice in the back of the head 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 an nearby parking garage. Versace was pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital at 9:21 a.m.

Responding police found Reese's stolen vehicle in a nearby parking garage. It contained Cunanan's clothes and clippings of newspaper reports of Cunanan's murders.


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. He had shot himself in the head with the Taurus pistol stolen from Jeff Trail; it was the same weapon he used to kill Madson, Reese, and Versace.

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


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, although an autopsy revealed he was HIV negative.

Although police searched the houseboat where Cunanan died, he left no suicide note and few personal belongings. Investigators were surprised because of Cunanan's reputation for acquiring money and expensive possessions from wealthy older men. 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.

In popular culture

Cunanan was portrayed by Shane Perdue in the film The Versace Murder (1998), Jonathan Trent in the film Murder in Fashion (2009), 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 several true crime television series' episodes: Mugshots on Court TV, with "Andrew Cunanan – The Versace Killer", and Six Degrees Of Murder, with "The Body in the Rug". He has also been featured on ABC's news television series 20/20.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 29 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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