Andrew Cunanan, 27, the socialite wannabe, began a killing spree in the spring of 1997. Over a three-month period, he murdered five men, including fashion icon Gianni Versace and real estate developer Lee Miglin. Cunanan’s crimes have the elements of a movie plot: high society, sex, celebrity, and murder. This might explain the enormous popularity of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, the second season of the FX true crime anthology television series.
Andrew Cunanan had no criminal record before he went on a killing spree in the middle of 1997. In the end, he had claimed the lives of five victims, the most famous of which was prominent fashion designer Gianni Versace. Cunanan committed suicide eight days later using the same gun he used on Versace. In doing so, he achieved what he always wanted, to be famous and remembered.
He also left behind a mystery to be unraveled. Who was Andrew Cunanan? Why did he suddenly turn into a spree killer?
Cunanan always said he wanted fame without having to work for it. But there are lots of people in the world like that…and most of them don’t become murderers to achieve their goal.
Cunanan didn’t leave a suicide note behind, so it’s impossible to know what his motives were, but this Andrew Cunanan wiki attempts to gain insight into who he was and why did what he did.
Who Was Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace’s Killer?
Andrew Phillip Cunanan was, according to friends, a lazy genius who wanted to be famous at any cost. As history shows us, he accomplished just that.
Cunanan was born in National City, California on August 31, 1969. He was the youngest of four children, Christopher, Elena, and Regina Cunanan.
His father, Modesto “Pete” Cunanan, a Navy veteran turned stockbroker, was known for being prestige-conscious. His mother, Mary Anne Schillaci, was Italian-American and a devout Catholic.
The family lived a comfortable life. And it’s fair to say that Andrew was treated differently than his siblings.
“He was my father’s pride and joy,” his brother Christopher said.
At the age of 10, Christopher recounted, Andrew read the family’s entire set of encyclopedias and memorized it. They could quiz him about anything in it and he’d know the answer.
“He got everything he needed,” his sister Elena added. “My dad gave him a sports car. He had the master bedroom. He had his own bath and everything.”
Genius Level IQ
Andrew Cunanan is alleged to have had an IQ of 147. For comparison, Einstein and Stephen Hawking both had IQs of 160—meaning, Cunanan was exceedingly bright.
Because he was treated differently, Cunanan was the only child from the family who attended the prestigious The Bishop’s School in ritzy La Jolla, California.
The school was attended by students that came from rich and powerful families; much wealthier than his. To fit in, Cunanan would tell elaborate lies about his family’s background. He told them he was Philippine royalty and, on other occasions, said his father was an Israeli millionaire and a Fifth Avenue aristocrat.
Cunanan was also openly gay as a teenager. He once showed up at a school function in a red patent-leather jumpsuit he claimed was a gift from a much older man.
Going to The Bishop’s School and running in wealthy social circles set the tone for the kind of life Cunanan wanted after graduating from high school.
“Andrew’s self-worth was tied to the finer things in life, what [people] could do for him. Being accepted in high society and by wealthy people was what he expected. If he didn’t get them, he was lost,” said Candice DeLong, a former FBI criminal profiler.
In high school, Cunanan was voted “Most Likely to Be Remembered” but it is alleged that he always felt like an outsider. In his yearbook, Cunanan wrote, “Apres moi le deluge,” which, when translated into English means, “After me, the flood.” How true those words were. Or maybe it’s more apt to say that he was the flood.
19 Was a Turning Point for Andrew Cunanan
Two major events happened to Andrew Cunanan that had a big impact on him. After graduating in 1987, he attended the University of California at San Diego, where he majored in history.
During his freshman year, his father fled to the Philippines because he said he was going to be arrested for misappropriating more than $100,000 from his stock-brokerage business. This claim is open for debate though, as the San Diego police have no record of any charges against him.
And, for the next six years, Modesto sent Mary Ann his $900 a-month Navy pension. He stopped sending it in late 1995, after which, she was forced onto welfare and food stamps. She eventually moved to Eureka, Illinois to be near her son, Christopher. She lived in public housing.
After Modesto fled, Andrew visited his father in the Philippines for about a month. When he came back, he described the squalor his father lived in.
At this time, Andrew Cunanan had become known for being a regular at local gay bars and restaurants; dating much older, wealthier men who supported him financially.
Cunanan’s religious mother found out around this time that he was gay. The rest of his family already knew, but Mary Ann did not. The mother and son had a heated argument. In a telling moment of violence, Andrew threw her up against a wall, dislocating her shoulder.
Move to San Francisco
It wasn’t long after this that Cunanan dropped out of school and moved to San Francisco, where he lived off of older gay men. Mary Ann was known to call him a “high-class male prostitute,” but none of his friends believe he ever rented by the hour.
However, his wealthy lovers gave him money and clothes and paid for his restaurant tabs. Jesse Cappachione, manager of the Midnight Sun bar in the gay Castro district, remembered that from 1990-1992, a well-dressed, articulate Cunanan turned up almost every night to buy rounds of drinks at the bar.
“He was boisterous and always seemed to be smiley,” Cappachione said. “His laugh was very distracting. You could hear it in almost every corner of the room.”
Andrew Cunanan Meets Sugar Daddy Norman Blachford
Cunanan met Norman Blachford, then 58, in 1994. Blachford made millions from selling his business and was retired, living in Phoenix, Arizona and part-time in La Jolla.
Blachford had just lost his partner of over 25 years to AIDS and was lonely.
Cunanan, meanwhile, was known for targeting older, wealthier men he wanted to meet.
“Andrew did his homework,” said San Diego restaurateur Michael Williams. “He would investigate older, wealthy gay men who didn’t have families, and he would place himself in those circles. And that was his living.”
Blachford saw to it that Cunanan lived large. His young lover lived in a seaside condominium and a hillside house in La Jolla. He was given $2,500 a month and was provided with a 1996 Infiniti I30T.
Blachford flew Cunanan to Paris and Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in the South of France in June 1996. They also flew to New York to see Broadway shows.
“Andrew always had an air about him,” says waiter Jim Allen, who knew Cunanan in San Diego. “’Out of my way —I’m really busy right now. I’m wearing very expensive clothes.’ He had one of those large, checkbook-size wallets. He’d open it, and you’d see rows of platinum credit cards. They were all in his name.”
It wasn’t enough for Cunanan, though. The young man complained to friends about how cheap Blachford was, and suggested he was doing his lover a favor by being with him.
An Expensive Miscalculation
Andrew Cunanan was getting restless. While the two were in Southampton for a week in the summer of 1996, he took off for several nights and went to numerous gay house parties. When the couple got back from their vacation, Cunanan threatened to leave Blachford unless he bought him a $125,000 Mercedes convertible, flew him first-class, raised his allowances, and wrote him into Blachford’s will.
It was an expensive miscalculation.
Blachford refused Cunanan’s demands and packed his bags. The older man didn’t beg him to stay. Instead, Cunanan was out on the street, without a “benefactor,” the lifestyle he craved, or a lover.
He had everything and ended up with nothing. Cunanan moved into a small apartment in Hillcrest, the center of San Diego’s LGBTQ scene. He also dove into crystal meth until he was left with nothing.
He was alone, getting a little older, and wealthy older men paid weren’t paying as much attention to him. His star had faded. It was during this period of self-doubt and depression that Cunanan started his killing spree.
Modesto: An Ambitious Man Who Left His Family
Modesto Cunanan was originally from Baliuag in the Philippines but he joined the Navy shortly after immigrating to the U.S. He met his future wife in Long Beach in 1961, at a bar where she worked as a waitress.
They married later that year and had four children. But their relationship became rocky. She claims he was physically abusive. And he said that Mary Ann cheated and that Elena wasn’t his child. While Andrew slept in the master bedroom, Modesto slept on the couch.
Mary Ann suffered from postpartum depression after Andrew was born and was hospitalized. As a result, Modesto raised Andrew in the early years and bragged that he raised Andrew “from the cradle,” and that Andrew was “more than a son to me. He was a friend.”
As a stockbroker, Modesto worked at Merrill Lynch, Prudential Bache, and Crowell, Weedon & Co. He never lasted anywhere for more than two years. This of course, led to increased financial stresses.
It is unclear why Modesto fled to the Philippines. It is alleged he embezzled more than $100,000 from his businesses, but Modesto claims Mary Ann made it all up.
What is accurate, though, is that in 1988, Modesto sold his car, the family’s two homes, and disappeared. Without telling his wife and kids, he returned to the Philippines.
Modesto stayed quietly in the background for years. That is, until after his son made headlines for killing Gianni Versace, being hunted as a fugitive, and then committing suicide.
Following the murder, Modesto abruptly left his two-bedroom apartment in the quiet town of Plaridel. He left a white cross wrapped with blue ribbon on the door with a message for neighbors: “My son was an altar boy. He is not a serial killer or a homosexual.”
He also told the town’s police chief, “My son is not like that. He is innocent. He is not a homosexual; he had a Catholic upbringing and was an altar boy…. I don’t believe he did what the American police say he did.”
Modesto always proclaimed his son’s innocence. Not a total surprise when you learn that Andrew was easily his favorite child. At one point, following the death of his son, he said he and a Filipino filmmaker were going to sleuth around Los Angeles and make a documentary about Andrew’s suicide and murder spree.
Modesto hoped that by uncovering the truth, he could retell Andrew’s story and correct what investigators said.
Modesto also said that any money that he made from the film would go toward building “a church, a chapel or a temple” in memory of Andrew Cunanan. He also wanted to be named executor of his son’s estate because “if any money comes out of it, it’s sacred money.”
Modesto eventually returned to the Philippines from California and settled there with his second wife.
Mary Ann: A Religious Woman Who Struggled
Mary Ann was an Italian immigrant and devout Catholic. She met her future husband while working as a waitress in a bar in 1961. The two were 11 years apart, but Modesto swept Mary Ann off her feet.
Of their first encounter she said, “He was dressed in a white tuxedo, and I thought he looked like a Filipino Errol Flynn.”
Mary Ann was six months pregnant with Christopher when they got married later that year.
She had a difficult pregnancy with Andrew, and, after he was born, she struggled with postpartum depression. This led to her being hospitalized for three months.
Despite having a difficult marriage, being abandoned, and broke, she didn’t want to divorce her husband.
Meanwhile, her relationship with Andrew, while close, was also complicated. “Andrew was my marriage counselor. We would take walks around the block together and he would explain things to me.”
In an interview on Larry King Live, Mary Ann said that Andrew was “beautiful, intelligent, handsome, bright… gifted… I just want to remember the good things.”
Timeline of Andrew Cunanan’s Five Victims
After Norman Blachford dumped Cunanan, he did drugs, and gained weight. He was no longer turning heads and was woefully single. There were also concerns that he might have contracted AIDS.
It was under this umbrella that Andrew Cunanan, a man with a clean record, snapped, and turned into a serial killer.
Some of his victims were friends, others were in the wrong place at the wrong time. No one can say for sure if he ever actually met his last victim, Gianni Versace, but murdering the famous fashion designer certainly gave him the lasting limelight he desired.
Cunanan left no suicide note. As a result, the reasons for why Cunanan did what he did, will forever remain a dark mystery.
Andrew Cunanan’s killing spree began in Minneapolis on April 27, 1997. On the last weekend of the month, Cunanan, then 27, bought a one-way ticket to Minneapolis, telling friends in San Diego he had to “settle some business” with his old friend, Jeffrey Trail, 28.
There are conflicting accounts on Trail. Investigators believe the two were once romantically involved. His family maintains that Cunanan had a weird obsession with Trail. Regardless of how they knew each other, the ferociousness of the murder suggests Cunanan felt something deep for Trail.
Cunanan met Trail in San Diego. Trail was a former U.S. naval officer who recently moved to Minnesota to take a job as district manager for Ferrellgas, a propane delivery company in Inver Grove Heights, near Minneapolis.
It is thought that Cunanan became convinced that Trail was having an affair with another of his lovers, David Madson. He confronted both of them in Madson’s apartment. Both Trail and Madson tried to convince Cunanan of their loyalty.
Cunanan was having none of it. Overcome with anger and jealousy, he smashed Trail’s head in with a claw hammer, hitting him 27 times. Andrew rolled Trail’s body up in a rug and left it in a closet in the loft-apartment. When police found his body, the watch he wore was stopped at 9:55 p.m.
“He was really nice,” said Lisa Pilot, 27, a customer service representative who worked for Trail. “He didn’t know a lot about propane. He was hard-working and always willing to learn from the rest of us.”
“He never got mad. He was always caring,” she added, “He wasn’t here all that long. We didn’t get to know him very well.”
After killing Trail, police believe that Cunanan held Madson hostage in his own apartment for two days. Eventually, they got into Madson’s car and drove to an isolated area outside Minneapolis.
It was there that Cunanan shot Madson in the head and back with Trail’s gun, and stole his red Jeep Cherokee.
Madson’s body was found near East Rush Lake in Chisago County, Minnesota on May 3, 1997. While investigating Madson’s house, police discovered Trail’s body. At the time, they were trying to determine if Madson was involved in Trail’s murder.
Madson, 33, was an architect who had once been Cunanan’s lover. The two met in San Francisco in December 1995, while Cunanan was still with Norman Blachford. Cunanan spotted Madson at a bar and sent him a drink. They had a nonsexual sleepover in Cunanan’s hotel room. Soon, they had a long-distance relationship.
Madson was an up-and-coming architect working for the John Ryan Co., a firm that specialized in banks and financial outlets. Madson was also, allegedly, the love of Cunanan’s life; but the two were complete opposites. Madson was career-oriented while Cunanan was happier to be arm candy.
They eventually ended their long-distance relationship in September 1996, with Madson not wanting anything more to do with Cunanan. The same could not be said for Cunanan, who said he would give up everything to move to Minneapolis for Madson.
Shortly after the two broke up, Jeffrey Trail moved to Minneapolis, leading Cunanan to think something suspicious was going on.
After murdering Madson, Cunanan drove to Chicago. On May 4, 1997, he killed 72-year-old real estate developer Lee Miglin in the garage of his mansion. No connection between Miglin and Cunanan has ever been found.
Police believe the murder was a crime of opportunity. Miglin was cleaning the garage of his mansion when Cunanan came upon him. His wrists and head were bound with masking tape, leaving small holes for breathing under his nostrils.
Cunanan tortured him with a saw and a screwdriver. All of Miglin’s ribs were broken, he was stabbed, and his throat was slashed with a gardener’s bow saw.
After the vicious murder, Cunanan made himself a sandwich, shaved, rested, and ransacked the home. He fled with Miglin’s prized coin collection and his green 1994 Lexus.
Miglin’s wife, Marilyn Miglin, arrived home on Sunday, May 4 from a business trip in Toronto, Canada. She was surprised that he didn’t pick her up at the airport.
She found the home empty, gate unlocked, dirty dishes, whiskers in the sink, and a half-eaten sandwich in the kitchen. Marilyn called the police, who found Lee dead in the garage.
While on the run, Cunanan used the car phone to make a number of calls. Police, who narrowed their focus in on Cunanan because of clues he left behind at the crime scenes in Minneapolis, tracked him by triangulating the phone.
His whereabouts were narrowed down to Philadelphia and leaked to the press, which Cunanan heard about on the news. He then ripped the phone out of the car.
The police knew where Cunanan was and what car he drove. From there, he went to Pennsville, New Jersey where he needed to find a new vehicle.
On May 9, five days later, Cunanan found his fourth victim, William Reese, a 45-year-old caretaker at Finn’s Point National Cemetery. He shot Reese to death and stole his 1995 red Chevrolet pickup truck.
Reese was late coming home from work, so his wife, Rebecca, went looking for him. When she got there, the door to the caretaker’s office was open and the radio was playing. She saw that his red pickup was gone. In its place was a green Lexus with Illinois plates. Rebecca called police.
They found Reese in a pool of blood on the concrete floor of the lodge. He was shot once in the head with a .40 caliber bullet. Forensics later proved he was shot with the same gun that killed Madson and Versace.
After the fourth murder, Cunanan was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. He evaded police for two months, hiding in plain sight in Miami.
While in Miami, Cunanan rented a room at the Normandy Plaza hotel, four miles north of where Gianni Versace lived. The hotel manager said Cunanan paid in cash and changed his appearance regularly.
Not that Cunanan was stuck in his room; he pawned items in Miami using his own name.
On July 15, 1997, while returning to home after a morning walk, Andrew Cunanan shot designer Gianni Versace twice in the back of the head on the front steps of his Miami Beach mansion, Casa Casuarina. Versace collapsed and died. A witness chased Cunanan, but told police he got away.
Nearby, police found William Reese’s red pickup truck, the clothing Cunanan wore when he killed Versace, a pawnshop ticket, a passport, and newspaper articles chronicling his killing spree.
At the time of Versace’s murder, the designer was at the height of his career. He had toned down his garish earlier work and was creating refined, colorful collections. He designed clothes for Princess Diana, Jennifer Lopez, and Elizabeth Hurley.
His company also expanded to produce clothing for men, women, and children, as well as handbags, jewelry, perfume, and products for the home.
Why did Cunanan kill Versace? No one knows. Witnesses claim that Versace and Cunanan crossed paths in the past. Other said Cunanan met Versace at a bar, or a party, or maybe while traveling with Blachford.
There’s no definitive evidence to suggest the two had a personal connection, or that Cunanan ever even met Gianni Versace.
John Walsh, longtime host of America’s Most Wanted, commented, “I believe that Andrew Cunanan singled out Gianni Versace to murder because he was jealous of the lifestyle. I think he said, ‘I’m going down some time so I want to go down in history.’ That I think was the motivation of Andrew Cunanan. I’ll kill somebody famous. The world will remember my name.”
Andrew Cunanan Committed Suicide Using the Gun That Killed Versace
The pressure was on authorities to track down Andrew Cunanan. Sightings of Cunanan came from all over the country. But, the truth was a lot closer to home. On July 23, the search for Cunanan ended, but not because of any clever police work.
A caretaker checking in on an unoccupied, two-level houseboat anchored off Collins Ave. saw that someone was inside. When he went in, he heard a gunshot. He informed police, who surrounded the houseboat and lobbed tear gas inside.
Police eventually found Andrew Cunanan’s body in a second-floor bedroom. He had put the gun to his right temple and pulled the trigger.
Cunanan used the same gun he used to kill Madson, Reese, and Versace. He left no suicide note.
He did leave behind a few personal belongings, including a large collection of books by Christian author, C.S. Lewis “and a few tubes of hydrocortisone cream.”
Dying may not have been his ultimate goal. FBI said Cunanan contacted an acquaintance on the West Coast less than 48 hours after murdering Gianni Versace, looking to get a false passport and leave the country.
His body was cremated and his remains were interred in the mausoleum at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in San Diego, California.
Why Did Andrew Cunanan Turn into a Serial Killer?
It’s impossible to say why Andrew Cunanan turned into a serial killer. FBI records suggest that, in 2014, he feared he was HIV-positive and threatened to kill whoever infected him. However, an autopsy found Cunanan was HIV-negative.
“If I had AIDS or if someone did that to me I would go on a five-state killing spree and take everyone with me I could,” Cunanan told friends before the spree began.
Or, can we point to his father, Modesto Cunanan, as a possible source for his behavior? Modesto had a special relationship with Andrew. His youngest son was more special than any of his other children; he was spoiled and made to feel as if he had to become a somebody. Even if he wasn’t. Just like his father. He wore expensive suits, drove a nice car, and had expensive houses. But it was all an illusion.
When his father sold everything out from under them and fled to the Philippines, Andrew’s image of Modesto as a powerful, reliable protector was crushed. When he visited Modesto and saw his living conditions, he may have thought, either this is life and needs to be embraced, or return to America and keep up the pretense that his family is rich.
Andrew chose the latter, and with that lifestyle came the delusion and lies; from which there was no turning back. Ultimately, his life followed the same trajectory as his father’s. It just ended on a very tragic note.
Again, without a suicide note, it’s impossible to say why Andrew Cunanan went on a killing spree and murdered Gianni Versace. And without a trial, there are no documented records. Even shows like The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story can only speculate on what inspired the likely sociopath to do what he did.
As a result, the puzzle of the motives that pushed Andrew Cunanan over the edge, to murder five men, will never truly be solved.