Edited By Grave Reviews Staff
In 1997, a man by the name of Andrew Cunanan killed five people in various places around the United States. However, by far the most famous killing was on July 15, 1997 when Cunanan murdered fashion guru Gianni Versace on the steps of his Miami Beach, Florida estate. Eight days later, Cunanan killed himself using the same handgun he had used to kill Versace. To this day, the motive behind Versace’s murder remains unknown.
Early Life and Education
The youngest of four children, Andrew Phillip Cunanan was born August 31, 1969, in National City, California, to Modesto “Pete” Cunanan, a Filipino American, and Mary Anne Schillaci, an Italian American. Modesto was serving in the United States Navy in the Vietnam War at the time of his son’s birth. After leaving the Navy, he had served as a career officer, he worked as a stockbroker.
In 1981, Cunanan’s father enrolled him in the independent day school, The Bishop’s School, a private school where most of the other students came from families that were wealthier than his, in the affluent La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. At school, Cunanan was remembered as being bright and very talkative, and testing with an I.Q. of 147.
In 1987, Cunanan enrolled in the University of California San Diego and majored in American History, but he dropped out two years later, eventually moving to San Francisco. He became a fixture in the nightlife of the Castro district of San Francisco, a gay neighborhood, befriending wealthy older men, and reportedly took an interest in creating violent pornography.
Cunanan’s serial killings began in Minneapolis on April 27, 1997, with the murder of his close friend, 28-year-old Jeffrey Trail, a propane salesman and former U.S. Navy officer. After an argument, Cunanan beat Trail to death with a hammer and left his body rolled in a rug in a loft apartment belonging to architect, David Madson.
33-year-old Madson, who had once been Cunanan’s boyfriend, was his second murder victim. Madson’s body was found on the east shore of Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota, on May 2, 1997 with gunshot wounds to the head and back from a pistol Cunanan had taken from Trail’s home.
Cunanan later drove to Chicago and killed 72-year-old Lee Miglin on May 4, 1997. No connection was ever found between Cunanan and Miglin. Officials concluded that it was a crime of opportunity while Miglin was cleaning a garage near his home. Cunanan bound Miglin’s hands and feet and wrapped his head with duct tape. He then stabbed Miglin more than twenty times with a screwdriver, slit his throat with a hacksaw, and stole his car. Sources do not indicate a clear motive behind this killing, but one presumption could indicate Cunanan was in need of transportation.
Five days later, Cunanan found his fourth victim in Pennsville Township, New Jersey, at Finn’s Point National Cemetery. Cunanan shot and killed 45-year-old caretaker William Reese, absconding with his red pickup truck.
Following his fourth murder, Cunanan had become the 449th fugitive in the United States to be listed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Though law enforcement and the FBI were on the hunt for him, Cunanan made his way to Miami, eventually taking up residence for nearly two months at the Normandy Plaza hotel, about four miles north of Versace’s mansion.
On July 15, Cunanan shot Italian fashion icon Gianni Versace, shooting him twice on the front stairway of his Miami Beach mansion, Casa Casuarina. A witness pursued Cunanan but was unable to catch him.
On July 23, eight days after Versace’s murder, Cunanan’s body was found in a second-floor bedroom of a houseboat, just three miles north of Versace’s Miami Beach mansion. A caretaker, who had heard a gunshot while checking in on the seemingly unoccupied houseboat, immediately notified police. A SWAT team lobbed tear gas into the houseboat and, 12 hours later, announced they had found the body of wanted fugitive Andrew Cunanan. He had shot himself in the head with the .40-caliber Taurus PT92 semiautomatic pistol he had stolen from Jeff Trail—the same weapon he used to kill Madson, Reese, and Versace. He did not leave behind a suicide note.
Aftermath of Cunanan’s Death
Cunanan’s motivation for the killings remains unknown. Cunanan’s upbringing and family background was healthy and normal so the cause of Cunanan’s actions is questionable. At the time of the murders, there was extensive public and press speculation that tied the crimes to Cunanan’s alleged discovery that he was HIV positive; however, an autopsy found him to be HIV negative.
Cunanan allegedly first met Gianni Versace in October 1990 in San Francisco. Versace was in town to be feted for the costumes he had designed for the San Francisco Opera production of Richard Strauss’ opera, Capriccio. However, Versace’s family has always steadfastly denied that the two ever met.
At the time of Versace’s death, sources indicate that the company was worth approximately $807 million in assets and had about 130 boutiques across the world. The legacy and death of Versace had increased the company’s value. As of September 2018, Michael Kors acquired the Versace brand.
Did you like this article? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.
Did you like this article? You may also like the crimes of Albert Fish