Case Studies
Andrew Cunanan : The Spree Killer

Andrew Cunanan : The Spree Killer

15th July 1997, the last day of a famous Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace. He was shot in the head by a symptomatic Andrew Cunanan. And this murder is an unsolved mystery even today after 25 years.

From being an intelligent person with an IQ of 147 to becoming a spree killer, Andrew came a long way. He was the youngest of the children’s in his family and he went to one of the prestigious schools after which he majored in American History from University of California-San Diego.

Being one of the brightest students, he was bound to achieve greatness, but what caused him to end up his career as a killer? Let’s find out about Andrew Cunanan’s history and the cause of his change in career.

Background of Andrew Cunanan

Andrew Cunanan was born on August 31, 1969, in National City, California. He was the youngest among the four children of Modesto “Pete” Dungao Cunanan, a Filipino-American and Mary Anne Schillaci an Italian-American. His father Modesto Cunanan was a naval officer in the United States Navy who was serving in the Vietnam war when Andrew was born. 

His early schooling was done in Bonita Vista Middle School, then in 1981 he was enrolled in The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, California, a private school where most of the other students came from families that were wealthier than his.

To fit among them, he started framing stories about his background, where he claimed his father as an Israeli millionaire and a Fifth Avenue aristocrat. These were the early signs of his antisocial personality disorder i.e., psychopath or sociopath. At the school he was remembered as a talkative student with an IQ of 147.

When he was in his teenage years he developed a reputation as a prolific liar, where he used to frame tall tales about his family and himself. He used to change his appearances according to his will and what he felt the most attractive. It was this time in his high school where he was identified as gay, when he was found of having liaisons with wealthy older men. Somehow he graduated from the school and enrolled in the University of California-San Diego, where he majored in American history.

It was in 1988, when Andrew’s father abandoned his family and fled to the Philippines to evade arrest from embezzlement. He was 19 years old at the same time when Andrew begun frequenting the local gay clubs. Also it was the time when his religious mother came to know about his sexuality which she opposed and during an argument, Andrew threw his mother against a wall, dislocating her shoulder.

Later examination of his behavior indicated that he may have suffered from antisocial personality disorder, characterized by a lack of remorse and empathy. He left his home and went to the Castro District of San Francisco, a center of gay culture, moving in with his best friend Cote and her boyfriend, Phil Merrill.

He 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.

Since high school he was obsessed with a rich lifestyle that’s why he hid his identity from the older wealthy men to befriend the,, so that they could provide for him as sugar daddies. He also spent time selling himself as a prostitute targeting older and wealthy gay men and developed a good reputation among them.

He claimed that he had known Gianni Versace since 1990, although it has never been confirmed. He used to idolize Gianni because he was a rich and famous gay man with a luxurious lifestyle.

In 1995, Andrew met David Madson, a Minneapolis architect, in a San Francisco bar. According to friends of Andrew, David Madson was the love of his life and he could give up everything for him. But then in spring of 1996, Madson broke up with him because he found something shady about Andrew. 

In the same year Cunanan identified himself as Andrew DeSilva to Norman Blachford, who was a wealthy gay man, and the two later moved in together. Blachford supported Cunanan by buying him a car and gave access to his credit cards so he could buy whatever he wanted.

However, Blachford ended their relationship when he tracked Cunanan’s spending habits and discovered that he was not Andrew DeSilva, the son of a pineapple plantation owner he claimed to be.  By this time, Cunanan lost his most supportive sugar daddy and was no longer living the luxurious lifestyle he wanted.

At the same time Andrew’s close friend Jeffrey Trail also called off their friendship as he was tired of his lying and erratic behavior. Trail told his friend that Andrew was involved in drug trafficking and once asked Trail to sell those drugs with him. He also claimed that Andrew used to abuse those drugs especially the Methamphetamine.

Now Andrew was shattered as all his loved ones had abandoned him, leading him to feel depressed, insecure, lonely, and vulnerable, which paved the way for his killings. By April 1997, his friends reported that Andrew was abusing painkillers and alcohol vigorously. Later, in the same month he told his friends that he would be leaving San Diego for Minneapolis to take care of the business with Trail. 

Murders By Andrew Cunanan

Jeffrey Trail (28 years old) was Cunanan’s first victim, whom he murdered on 27 April, 1997 with hammer and since here he started his journey of a spree killer. He went to Trail’s apartment where the two got into a heated argument and Cunanan left the apartment with Trail’s .40-calibre Taurus PT100 semi-automatic pistol.

From there he went to David Madson’s loft apartment where he called Trail to retrieve his gun. When Trail arrived at the apartment Andrew beat him to death with a hammer in front of Madson. He rolled Trail’s body into a rug and placed it behind the sofa which was discovered by the coworkers of Madson after two days, i.e. on 29th April 1997.

It was reported by the authorities that David Madson (33 years old) had remained with Andrew after murder of Trail, as they were witnessed together by neighbouring people. This created suspicion on Madson also but his family members confirmed that he was kept as hostage by Andrew Cananan.

On May 2, 1997, Andrew and Madson were seen together in north Minneapolis, driving Madson’s jeep and eating lunch at a bar. But the very next morning, the dead body of David Madson was found on the east shore of Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota. He was shot on the head and back from the Trail’s gun that Andrew stole.

On 3 May 1997, Cunanan drove to Chicago, Illinois, and killed Lee Miglin, a prominent real estate developer. Cunanan boundes Miglin with duct tape, stabbed him 20 times with a screwdriver, then cut his throat with a hacksaw. After the killing, Cunanan took Miglin’s Lexus and drove to New Jersey.

After arriving in New Jersey Andrew Cunanan killed cemetery caretaker William Reese (45 years old) at Finn’s Point National Cemetery with the same Taurus gun. He neither had known Reese nor met him earlier, therefore it was concluded by the police that Andrew might have killed the caretaker for his 1995 red Chevrolet pickup truck.

On 12 May 1997, Andrew checked-in at the Normandy Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, where he paid $29 per night in cash. He hid there for the next two months and checked-out on 14 July 1997 without paying his bills as he went out of cash.

Arresting Andrew Cunanan

The FBI listed Andrew Cunanan on their top 10 most wanted list on 12 June 1997 and started the manhunt but was unsuccessful.

It was around 08:45 in the morning of 15 July 1997, when Gianni Versace was shot dead by Andrew Cunanan with the Taurus gun. Gianni was returning to his mansion Casa Casuarina in Miami Beach from a visit to the News Cafe, where he picked up magazines.

Gianni was on the steps of his mansion when Andrew shot him on his head and left cheek and ran away. A witness chased Andrew but was unable to catch him as he fled to the nearby parking garage. Gianni was declared dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital at 9:21 a.m. The police found Reese’s stolen red Chevrolet pickup truck in the nearby garage.

There was a massive manhunt with about 1,000 agents looking for Cunanan throughout the country. On 23 July 1997, Andrew was found shot dead in a luxury houseboat. He committed suicide with the same Taurus gun of Trail.

The motive of the acts done by Andrew Cunanan is still mysterious. It had been assumed that Andrew allegedly suspected himself of HIV/AIDS and he blamed all those elderly males for the cause. This might also be the reason for assassinating Gianni since he symbolized the successful gay celebrity. However, the autopsy confirmed that he was HIV negative.

It is one of the most famous murder and suicide mystery which attracted the whole world. A lot of investigation was conducted but still the case remains unsolved even after 25 years.

Various articles, reviews and books have been published based on this case. It had been in popular culture where Andrew 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *