Andrew Cunanan – Versace Killer

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.

Early Life

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, 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.

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. At school, Cunanan was remembered as being bright and very talkative, and testing with an I.Q. of 142. 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. Nonetheless, in high school he was voted ‘Least Likely to be Forgotten’.

In 1988, when Andrew was 19, Modesto deserted his family and moved to the Philippines to evade arrest for embezzlement. That same year, Cunanan – who identified as gay in high school and even then had liaisons with wealthy older men – 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 a lack of remorse and empathy.

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

Town and Country reported that in San Francisco, Cunanan – who also used the aliases Andrew DeSilva, Lt. Cmdr. Andy Cummings, Drew Cunningham, and Curt Matthew Demaris – “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 largess of one wealthy patron or another,” and at least in part, supporting himself by dealing drugs.

Cunanan first met Gianni Versace, whom he would eventually kill, in 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’ Capriccio.

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. Cunanan’s friend, Jeffrey “Jeff” Trail, had told Michael Williams (Trail’s former roommate) that Cunanan had resumed his prior profession of selling drugs; Cunanan also began increasingly consuming them.

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 US Navy officer working as a district manager for a propane delivery company. Both had distanced themselves from him. 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.”

Jeffrey Trail

Cunanan’s serial killings 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.

David Madson

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, with gunshot wounds to the head and back from a pistol Cunanan had taken from the home of his first victim, Jeff Trail.

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. 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, 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. Cunanan even used his own name to pawn a stolen item, despite knowing that police routinely review pawn shop records.

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. A witness attempted to pursue Cunanan, but was unable to catch him.

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