Lesson #8: The Killer Catamite—Andrew Cunanan (1997)
Andrew Phillip Cunanan (August 31, 1969 – July 23, 1997) was a homosexual spree killer
who went off the rails and murdered at least five people, including fashion designer
Gianni Versace, during a three-month period in 1997, ending with his own suicide,
at age 27.
Cunanan was a mulatto, born in National City, California, to Modesto Cunanan, a Filipino
American, and Mary Anne Shilacci, an Italian American. 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 notorious Castro District of San Francisco. While there, he frequented high-class
gay bars and prostituted himself to wealthy older men. (Four years of college getting
a useless degree obviously fitted him for such a job.)
When Cunanan was 19, his father deserted his family to avoid arrest for embezzlement.
That same year, his mother learned of Cunanan's homosexuality. During an ensuing
argument, he threw her against a wall, dislocating her shoulder. Before the murders,
Cunanan was involved in petty theft and drug dealing.
The first known murder was that of one of his sodomites, Jeffrey Trail, a former
US naval officer and propane salesman, on April 25, 1997, in Minneapolis. The next
victim was a former john, 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.
Cunanan next drove to Chicago and killed another one of his “clients,” 72-year-old
Lee Miglin, a prominent real estate developer, on May 4, 1997. Following this murder,
the FBI added him to its Ten Most Wanted list.
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. In this case he seems to have killed Reese not because of any former
sexual liaison, but in order to steal his truck. 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. Some people
believe this indicates Cunanan was self-destructive and wanted to get caught. Or
he may have just been stupid.
On July 15, 1997, Cunanan murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace. There has been
an immense amount of waffle and sand-throwing in the liberal media as to whether
or not Versace had any former relationship with Cunanan. Versace was known to be
gay (molto tutti frutti in Italian) and known to employ high-class rent boys; it
seems odd that Cunanan would simply pick a victim at random and it just happens to
be a celebrity. He apparently stalked Versace, waited outside his Miami Beach home,
and gunned him down as he opened the wrought-iron gate. A witness attempted to pursue
Cunanan 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, was found in a nearby garage by
the police who responded. (So why didn’t he use the passport? And where did he get
such a thing? Contrary to popular urban legend, you can’t just by a false passport
on a street corner for $200. There always seemed to be something moving in the shade
with this case.)
On July 23, 1997, eight days after murdering Versace, Cunanan allegedly shot himself
in the mouth in the upstairs bedroom of a Miami houseboat. Well, anyway, he was found
dead with a bullet in his brain, put it that way. He used the same gun he used to
commit the other murders, a Taurus PT100 semi-automatic pistol in .40 S&W caliber,
which had been stolen from the first victim, Jeff Trail.
At the time of the crimes, there was much public and press speculation that Cunanan's
motives were tied to a diagnosis of HIV infection; however, an autopsy found him
to be HIV-negative. In order to piece together a motive for his killing spree, police
searched the boathouse where Cunanan died. 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, which is very odd reading for a gay homicidal
maniac, since Lewis was a proponent and defender of fundamentalist Christianity.
“His motivations remain a mystery,” as we are told. 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 indicates that
he may have suffered from psychopathy. (Ya think?)