Andrew Cunanan was a highly intelligent and charming young man who could have become anything…but he ended up being one of America’s most notorious killers. How did this happen? Was his father, Modesto Cunanan, partly responsible for his son becoming a murderer? Read our Modesto Cunanan wiki to gain some insight into the formation of a serial killer.
Who was Modesto “Pete” Cunanan? Of course, we know he’s the father of serial killer Andrew Cunanan. But a lot of salacious material has been written about Modesto and how he treated his family…so, is it fact or fiction? Did the preferential treatment he gave his youngest son Andrew, who murdered fashion legend Gianni Versace, help turn him into one of America’s most notorious serial killers? This Modesto Cunanan wiki delves into the complicated relationship Andrew had with his father.
Did Modesto Cunanan Turn His Son into a Serial Killer?
To really understand who Andrew Phillip Cunanan was and why he became a serial killer, you need to look at his family—in particular, his father Modesto. His mother, Mary Ann, was also a key figure, but it was Modesto who had the biggest impact on Andrew.
Why? As the Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”
When it comes to child development, the first five to seven years are the most formative. It is during this period of time that they learn appropriate behavior, boundaries, and empathy—skills that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, many children miss out on these important social skills because they were not provided the necessary steps to become fully developed adults. While Andrew Cunanan’s murder spree cannot be blamed entirely on his father Modesto, the latter provided his son with the blueprints for murder.
Who Was Modesto Cunanan, the Father of Versace’s Killer?
Modesto Cunanan was the poster child for the American Dream. He came to America with very little and experienced a meteoric rise. Unfortunately, the story of Modesto, who also went by “Pete,” doesn’t stop there; he burnt out just as quickly.
Cunanan was from Baliuag, Philippines, but emigrated to the U.S. and joined the U.S. Navy.
Modesto met his future wife Mary Ann in 1961, when she was working as a waitress in a bar in Long Beach, California. As she remembers, it was love at first sight. “He was dressed in a white tuxedo, and I thought he looked like a Filipino Errol Flynn,” she said.
The couple married later that year, when Mary Ann was six months pregnant with Christopher. They would go on to have three more children: Elena, Regina, and Andrew. “Pete” was actually serving with the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War when his son Andrew was born on August 31, 1969.
When he retired from the Navy after 19 years, the ambitious Modesto worked as a lab technician to help put himself through night school so he could earn his license to become a stockbroker.
After that, Modesto quickly got a job working at Merrill Lynch in San Diego; he stayed there for two years. He also ended up working for Prudential Bache and Crowell, Weedon & Co, but never for more than two years. Productivity issues always seemed to crop up.
Andrew’s Formative Years with Modesto
Modesto’s marriage to Mary Ann was anything but emotionally stable. She would later claim that Modesto would hit her and pull her hair, a claim he denied. What is certain, however, is that Mary Ann was not happy in her marriage. After giving birth to Andrew, she suffered from postpartum depression and was hospitalized for the first three months of Andrew’s life.
During these first few months of Andrew’s life, his bond with his father intensified. While the busy Modesto may have resented being the sole breadwinner and caregiver, he never showed it. He bragged about raising Andrew “from the cradle,” later saying Andrew was “more than a son to me. He was a friend.”
Of their early years together, Modesto said Andrew had a peaceful childhood and that his goal was “to be somebody” when he grew up.
“He never saw violence in our household,” Modesto Cunanan said. “That was never part of his growing up years.”
That said, Modesto did admit that his marriage to Mary Ann broke down when Andrew was young, but he waited until Andrew was 18 before they decided to get a divorce. During those rocky years, Modesto said he tried to maintain peace and harmony.
Pete’s Social Climbing Philosophy
Modesto, aka Pete, and Mary Ann had vastly different values. She was a conservative Italian-American and a devout Catholic. Her husband, on the other hand, was more interested in appearances and climbing the social ladder.
To impress the importance of these traits onto Andrew, Modesto gave his son a copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s etiquette primer. This tome, Modesto said, would teach Andrew how to conduct himself like a prince and get an edge in society.
And the best way for Andrew to get an edge in society was to be treated first, like a prince, at home. And unlike the other siblings, Andrew was treated as such and put on a pedestal.
It was no secret that Andrew was Modesto’s favorite child. “He was my father’s pride and joy,” Andrew’s brother Christopher said, with sister Elena adding that, “He got everything he needed.” He was given a sports car before he had a driver’s license and slept in the master bedroom.
Andrew Puts His Father’s Training into Action
Because Andrew was exceptionally bright, with an IQ of 147, he was the only Cunanan child to be sent to The Bishop’s School in ritzy La Jolla, California. It was at this high school that Andrew put his father’s materialism and soaring aspirations for his prince into action.
At The Bishop’s School, Andrew was dramatic, over-the-top, and flashy. Andrew was also a compulsive liar. He thought he had to be; most of the other students at The Bishop’s School came from much wealthier families than he did.
But Andrew would not be deterred, telling his friends he was Philippine royalty. On other occasions, he said his father owned a pineapple plantation, was an Israeli millionaire, and was a Fifth Avenue aristocrat.
Andrew was also openly gay as a teenager (at school, not at home). He once showed up at a school function in a red patent-leather jumpsuit he claimed was a gift from a much older man.
After his junior year at The Bishop’s School, officials provided a summary of Cunanan that was to be used with college applications. He was described as “an individual in every sense of the word” and the school gave its “enthusiastic recommendation” of him.
“He relates very well to adults, discourses brilliantly about culture and history, and is capable of profound thought,” it read. “He is independent, occasionally self-indulgent and at times only interested in pursuing areas that truly interest him.”
Not surprisingly, Andrew was voted “Most Likely To Be Remembered” in his high school yearbook. Under his senior picture in The Bishop’s 1987 yearbook, Andrew wrote “Apres moi, le deluge,” which means “after me, the flood” in French. This was a modification of “Après nous, le deluge” (“After us, the flood”), a French expression attributed to Madame de Pompadour, the lover of King Louis XV of France.
Modesto Cunanan in the Spotlight: 1988
Andrew’s life was going well. After high school, he went to the University of California in San Diego, where he majored in history. He was also spending lots of time at local gay bars and restaurants and began dating wealthier men who supported the lifestyle he believed he deserved.
The kept boy toy was given a $2,500 monthly allowance, picked up expensive restaurant tabs for friends, and left big tips. He shopped at high-end department stores, wore cashmere topcoats, and sported gold Cartier wristwatches.
It seemed to be the princely life his father always wanted for him.
But things took a turn for the worse. His highly successful, ambitious father, Modesto, the man who always wore expensive suits and bought expensive cars and homes, abandoned his family and fled to the Philippines. The materialism that Andrew always believed was real was actually a lie.
It is alleged that Modesto left the U.S. because he thought he was going to be arrested for embezzling $106,000 in stocks. It’s possible he was guilty of theft, but the arrest claims are open for debate. The San Diego Police have no record of any charges against him.
Modesto’s quick departure had been planned for some time, though, having only fled after selling his car and the family’s two homes. His family had no idea what had hit them. While he had money in his pocket, they were left destitute.
For the next six years, Modesto sent Mary Ann his monthly Navy pension of $900.00, stopping in late 1995. After that, Mary Ann subsisted off welfare and food stamps and lived in public housing until her death in 2012.
After Modesto took off, Andrew visited him in the Philippines for five days, but was disgusted at what his father had become and the squalid living conditions. He returned to the U.S. after a month. However, he had to earn enough for a return flight first, which he did by prostituting himself (sometimes cross-dressing) to well-heeled diplomats.
Andrew Veers From His Father’s Life Path
Back in America, Andrew had a decision to make: follow the same trajectory as his father, burning bright and fading fast, or being the prince he thought he deserved to be. Andrew chose the latter, living large off of wealthy, older men. But like his father, Andrew always thought he deserved even more.
In 1996, Andrew demanded that his sugar daddy, Norman Blachford, buy him a $125,000 Mercedes convertible, fly him first class, raise his allowances, and add him to Blachford’s will. Never mind that Blachford was already giving him a lavish monthly allowance, was flying him to Europe and New York, and was putting him up in a million-dollar oceanfront property.
He wanted to use the illusion. But it wasn’t to be.
Blachford refused Andrew’s demands, so Andrew left him, thinking Blachford would change his mind and beg him to stay. He didn’t.
One day he’s eating caviar, the next he’s out on the streets without a benefactor. He had everything and ended up with nothing. Andrew moved into a small apartment in Hillcrest, the center of San Diego’s LGBT scene. He also started taking crystal meth and dealing drugs.
Andrew Cunanan, who, as a young boy, said he “wanted to be somebody,” was anything but. The lifestyle the once brilliant, vivacious man thought he deserved was gone. He was poor, doing drugs, and gaining weight. His star had faded and no one was paying attention to him.
He was also afraid he might be HIV positive, though an autopsy later confirmed this was not the case.
It was during this difficult period that Andrew, who had a clean record, started his killing spree.
Modesto Denies Son Is a Serial Killer or Gay
Little was heard from Modesto while he was in the Philippines. That is, until his son made headlines for murdering five people, including world-famous designer Gianni Versace, and committing suicide.
Immediately after his son’s suicide, Modesto left his two-bedroom apartment in Plaridel. He left a white cross wrapped with a blue ribbon on the door with a message for neighbors: “My son was an altar boy. He is not a serial killer or homosexual.”
Modesto and Mary Ann always denied their blessed son was gay. They also couldn’t believe their son was a serial killer.
The still-proud father 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.”
He was a little more objective in an August 3, 1997 interview with the Associated Press. When asked about comments attributed to his ex-wife Mary Ann that Andrew was a “high-class male prostitute,” Modesto commented, “I cannot deny or confirm that that became his job. Maybe that was the effect of the environment. Maybe he saw in his difficulties that that was where he could make money.”
An Opportunistic Move or a Bid to Clear His Son?
Modesto still could not bring himself to believe that Andrew was a serial killer. The following month, he was in Los Angeles to start making a documentary about, what he said, was his son’s only alleged crime spree.
Pete said he and a filmmaker from the Philippines would be taking a closer look at the facts by interviewing some of Andrew’s close friends and acquaintances.
Modesto, who had abandoned his son and entire family, also said he planned to go to court in Los Angeles to be named executor of his son’s estate. The father of the killer said that any money he’d make from the film would go toward building “a church, a chapel or a temple” in memory of Andrew. Why a religious building? Because any money that comes out of the documentary is “sacred money.”
The elder Cunanan said he turned down lucrative offers from two Filipino film studios for the rights to his story.
“I knew what those guys would do,” he said. “The FBI would be the heroes and Andrew would be on the run like Dillinger.”
Instead, he turned to Amable “Tikoy” Aguiluz VI, an independent filmmaker, to put the story of his son’s life and death on the screen.
According to Aguiluz, he’s telling the story from Modesto’s point of view: “…a father who knew Andrew until he was 19—and his discovery of his son all over again.”
Modesto Cunanan said he wants his story out there to correct the lies and conspiracies being spread by the media about his son.
“This was a deep cover-up,” the father said. “Hopefully, we’ll come up with some plausible explanations when we run the movie.”
Where Is Modesto Cunanan Now?
It is not known how far Modesto got with the documentary, but it was never released. He eventually returned to the Philippines and settled there with his second wife.
Modesto eventually returned to the U.S., but not before he became a follower of Elizabeth Clare Prophet, a survivalist sect, and spent time looking for buried gold that the Japanese had supposedly left during World War II.
Media glimpses of Andrew Cunanan’s father are rare. Modesto appeared in a video posted on YouTube on July 21, 2015. Apparently the man shown through the window is Modesto Cunanan, at his home near Manila. The man speaking in Tagalog is a police officer. It’s unclear when this footage was taken.