People don't know me. They think they do, but they don't

Andrew Phillip Cunanan was a spree killer and robber most famous for being responsible for the murder of fashion icon Gianni Versace.


Cunanan was the youngest of his family in San Diego. His parents' marriage was troubled and he would often go to his room to escape the tension. His father Modesto was a Filipino-born U.S. Navy serviceman who then retired from the job and later became a stockbroker when Cunanan was a child. His mother Mary Ann (née Shilacci) was Italian American. During his high school years, he left the public school system and enrolled in the prestigious Bishop's School. Being highly intelligent, he did very well there and was said to be fluent in seven languages. Even though he was openly gay among his fellow students, he was still very well-liked and popular. At the age of 15, he began going to gay bars, often in disguise in order to hide his age and ethnicity. His ploys usually worked splendidly and often even fooled people with whom he had socialized the previous evening. In 1987, aged 18, he graduated from the Bishop's School and was, somewhat ironically (in more than one way), listed as "Most Likely to Be Remembered". Though he became a history student at the University of San Diego, his nightlife took its toll on his studies. At gay bars, he began charming older, wealthy, gay men, who would bring him along to social functions as a "secretary" or "associate" and often give him gifts. One such gift was a $30,000 car. While Cunanan made good money of his lifestyle, his parents were not as well off; his father wasn't very successful as a stockbroker and had lost his positions at several agencies. The last time, he was facing charges of embezzling $106 000 and was forced to flee the country. Mrs. Cunanan, abandoned, had to move to a less flattering neighborhood.

Cunanan Child

Young Cunanan (seated in cart) with his mother and siblings.

Around this time, she learned that Cunanan was gay. The argument they had resulted in her dislocating her shoulder after he pushed her. After dropping out from his university studies, Cunanan visited his father in the Philippines and was ashamed to see him reduced to the poverty in which he lived. He then frequented local gay bars until he had saved up enough to return to the States. Upon arriving in San Francisco, he returned to his usual barhopping and took on some new identities. At one point, he met Eli Gould, a well-connected lawyer, and soon found himself attending all kinds of high-profile events. At one such function, he met Gianni Versace, who allegedly mistook him for someone else. Since Cunanan was used to lying about his identity, he didn't correct him. As Cunanan grew older, his darker sides began emerging; he had roles in pornographic movies featuring sadistic acts and started deriving pleasure from pain and humiliation. In spite of his dampened mood, he was still invited to festivities, but friends and acquaintances noticed how he was changing. In 1997, when he was 27, the wealthy, older gay men he had been associated with had moved on and he was growing older. He began gaining weight and his once well-groomed hair became long and unkempt. When he exhibited some symptoms associated with AIDS, he became confident that he had the disease. Though he went to a doctor early in the year and had himself tested, he never returned for the results. Had he done so, he would have learned that they came back negative. Cunanan also started committing petty theft, prostituting himself and dealing painkillers, which he sometimes also abused in combination with vodka.

Killing Spree and Death

Wanted Andrew Cunanan

Cunanan's FBI wanted poster.

In April, Cunanan’s life finally collapsed completely when he became convinced that two of his lovers, Jeffrey Trail, a former naval officer, and David Madson, an architect, were seeing each other behind his back. He was also bothered by the fact that they were both much more professional and successful than him while he was failing. When Cunanan called Trail, he denied they were seeing each other, causing Cunanan to hang up angrily. He then flew to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and was picked up by Madson and taken to Trail's home, where they, according to friends, were planning to convince him that they weren't involved. Unfortunately, Cunanan and Trail got into a heated argument despite Madson's attempts to mediate between them. Finally, an enraged Cunanan bashed Trail's skull in with a hammer taken from a kitchen drawer, killing him. Madson then helped him roll the body in a rug. They then spent the next two days pretending as though nothing had happened. This came to an end when the building manager found the body, forcing Cunanan and Madson to flee from Minneapolis. Realizing that he was enjoying the feeling of being on a spree, Cunanan pulled over in a country lane leading to Duluth and shot Madson dead with a gun that had been left in his possession by Trail when he moved. On May 4, Cunanan attacked Lee Miglin, an elderly, successful real-estate developer, in Chicago. He was tied up with duct tape, tortured, his throat cut and his remains run over with his own Lexus, which Cunanan then stole and kept driving with. On May 9, he held up a caretaker, William Reese, in Pennsville, New Jersey, forced him to give him the keys to his truck and then shot him even though he complied. He then drove away in the car, leaving the Lexus behind. He then made his way to Miami Beach, Florida, where he rented a hotel room by the month.

Cunanan signature

Cunanan's signature

Though he frequented the local gay bars and was seen by a number of people and the police were aware of these sightings, they failed to make the information public, allowing him to move as freely as ever. It wasn't until June 9 that he was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, having been seen near Miglin's home and pictures of him having been found in Madson's car. After roughly two months of barhopping, Cunanan followed Gianni Versace home from a café on July 15 and shot him execution-style. Even though his final murder had made Cunanan infamous, he was still able to stay hidden. On July 7, Cunanan had pawned some gold coins stolen from Miglin, boldly using his real name and the hotel address for the paperwork. When it was faxed to the Miami Beach PD as required by law, the papers ended up on the desk of a clerk who was on vacation and was discovered mere hours after Versace's murder.
Cunanan suicide

Miami Dade Officer at Cunanan's suicide scene.

At one point, a SWAT team raided the hotel room at which Cunanan was believed to be living, only to find no trace of him. Two days later, the hotel staff realized that they had given the investigators the wrong room number by mistake. On July 23, Cunanan was staying in a house-boat in the Miami Beach harbor. When a Portuguese caretaker went to check on his client's boat, he saw Cunanan and startled him. After a standoff, he shot himself in the boat's master bedroom with the same gun he had used to kill Madson, Reese, and Versace.

Modus Operandi

Cunanan’s victims were all men of different ages and professions, three of whom were directly or indirectly connected to him. The other two were random acts of violence perpetrated either out of necessity or just for enjoyment. He killed three of his five victims with a .40 S&W Taurus semi-automatic handgun, the same he used to kill himself. His first victim, Trail, had his skull bashed in with a hammer. His third victim, Miglin, was tied up and his entire face except the nose covered with duct tape, beaten, stabbed in the chest with a pair of pruning shears, his throat slashed slowly with a hacksaw, and then his body was run over with his own car.

Known Victims

Gianni Versace

Gianni Versace.

  • Unspecified date in 1988 or 1989: Mary Anne Schillaci (his mother; assaulted; threw her against a wall and dislocated her shoulder)
  • 1997:
    • April 26, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Jeffrey Trail (bludgeoned with a hammer and stole his gun)
    • April 28, Rush Lake, Minnesota: David Madson (his lover; shot three times in the head)
    • May 4, Chicago, Illinois: Lee Miglin (beaten, stabbed in the chest with pruning shears, slashed his throat with a hacksaw, and run over post-mortem; stole his car)
    • May 9, Pennsville, New Jersey: William Reese (robbed and shot at point-blank range)
    • July 15, Miami Beach, Florida: Gianni Versace (shot execution-style)

On Criminal Minds

Cunanan was first mentioned in Criminal Minds, in Charm and Harm, as an example of spree/serial killers who saved their most important murders for last. The unsub of the episode, Mark Gregory, appears to have been, to some degree, based on him; both were interstate spree killers, were good at disguising themselves, had been in relationships with the first victim(s) of their sprees and ended said sprees in Florida (though Gregory did so by committing suicide by cop while Cunanan killed himself directly). Cunanan is also similar to serial killer Paul Westin. Both were homosexual, had a strained relationship with one of their parents as a result of it (Cunanan with his mother, Paul with his father), killed their first victim (who was also their lover) by bludgeoning, at least one victim by stabbing, and two other victims by shooting. Cunanan was referenced in Neon Terror during a conversation between Rossi and JJ about a reporter linked to the case at hand.