Andrew Phillip Cunanan (August 31, 1969 – July 23, 1997) was an American spree killer who murdered at least five people, including fashion designer Gianni Versace, during a three-month period in 1997, ending with Cunanan’s suicide, at age 27. On June 12, 1997, Cunanan became the 449th fugitive to be listed by the FBI on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
Cunanan was born in National City, California to Modesto Cunanan, a Filipino American, and Mary Anne Shilacci, an Italian American. He was the youngest of four children. Modesto Cunanan could not attend his son’s birth, as he was serving in the US Navy in the Vietnam War at the time.
In 1981, his father enrolled him in The Bishop’s School in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California. At school, Cunanan was remembered as being bright and very talkative, testing with an I.Q. 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 also adept at changing his appearance according to what he felt was most attractive at a given moment.
After graduating from high school in 1987, he enrolled at the University of California, San Diego, where he majored in American history. After graduating from UCSD, he settled in the Castro District of San Francisco. There, he frequented high-class gay bars and prostituted himself to wealthy older men.
When Cunanan was 19 his father deserted his family to avoid arrest for embezzlement. That same year his mother learned of Andrew’s homosexuality. During the ensuing argument, he threw her against a wall dislocating her shoulder.
Before the murders, Cunanan was involved in petty theft and drug dealing.
The next victim was architect David Madson, who was found on the east shore of Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota, on April 29, 1997, with gunshot wounds to the head. Police recognized a connection, as Trail’s body had been found in Madson’s Minneapolis loft apartment.
Five days later, Cunanan, who took Miglin’s car, found his fourth victim in Pennsville, New Jersey, at the Finn’s Point National Cemetery, killing 45-year-old caretaker William Reese. While the manhunt focused on Reese’s truck, Cunanan “hid in plain sight” in Miami Beach, Florida, for two months between his fourth and fifth murders. He even used his own name to pawn a stolen item, knowing that police routinely check pawn shop records for stolen merchandise.
On July 15, 1997 Cunanan murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace. A witness attempted to pursue him but could not catch him. The vehicle he used, as well as the clothes he had just been wearing, an alternative passport, and newspaper clippings of his murders were found in a nearby garage by the police who responded.
Eight days after murdering Versace, on July 23, 1997, Cunanan shot himself in the mouth in the upstairs bedroom aboard a Miami houseboat. He used the same gun he used to commit the other murders, a Taurus semi-automatic pistol in .40 S&W caliber which had been stolen from the first victim, Jeff Trail.
Police searched the boathouse where Cunanan died in order to piece together a motive for his killing spree. However, Cunanan left behind few personal belongings, surprising investigators, given his 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 the fiction of C.S. Lewis.
His motivations remain a mystery. Various theories include jealousy for Versace’s role as a “gay icon“, as well as necessity and opportunity in some of the other murders. Examination of his behavior from reports also indicate that he may have been a psychopath, a personality disorder characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy.