Andrew Cunanan was 27-years-old when he led a killing rampage that resulted in the death of five men. He may have been described by LAPD and Simi Valley former police officer Tom Ohmer as a “charismatic, intelligent young guy who always wanted to be the center of attention”, but Cunanan was also cold-blooded serial killer whose own life ended days after he gunned down famed fashion icon Gianni Versace.
Cunanan was a prominent member of San Francisco’s gay scene in his 20s, and was described by many people as gregarious, social, loud, and always determined to be the life of the party.
Tonight, ABC News’ 20/20 will focus on the manhunt for Cunanan and his descent into madness.
Read on to learn more about the serial killer.
1. He Murdered at Least Five People
During a three-month time period in 1997, Cunanan killed at least five people.
The first murder took place on April 25, 1997. The victim was Jeffrey Trail, 28, a former US naval officer and propane salesman. According to Vanity Fair, Cunanan considered Trail to be his “best friend”. His second victim was 33-year-old David Madson, a man who Cunanan had previously dated, but separated from the prior spring. Vanity Fair reports that Madson was the “unrequited” love of Cunanan’s life, and his photo was taped to Cunanan’s fridge door.
According to a 2014 article in ABC, FBI records suggest Cananan thought he may have had AIDS in the late 1990s, and was looking to get revenge from men who he believed gave him AIDS. (An autopsy later revealed that he was HIV negative). His third victim, Lee Miglin, was allegedly one of the men who be believe gave him AIDS, although the 75-year-old’s family holds that the two never met.
Cunanan’s fourth victim was 45-year-old William Reese, the caretaker of a New Jersey cemetery with his wife and son. A 1997 Vanity Fair article states, “Unlike the other victims, Reese was probably murdered simply for his 1995 red Chevrolet pickup truck. Trail, Madson, and Miglin, however, carried the personal signature of what criminologists call a ‘pathological, sadistic sexual offender.'”
His fifth victim was fashion designer Gianni Versace.
2. He Committed Suicide at Age 27
On July 24, 1997, Cunanan shot himself in the head in the upstairs bedroom of a Miami houseboat. He used the same gun that he’d used on Madson, Reese, and Versace. He was just 27.
According to Vanity Fair, he did not leave a suicide note.
Speaking to ABC News about the killing spree, former FBI agent Brad Garrett says that “Cunanan was going on this one-way trip to kill off his past.” Upon arriving in Miami, Cunanan was seen by an employee at a sandwich shop. It’s believed that police just missed capturing him before he fled and killed his next victim.
3. One of His Victims Was Fashion Designer Gianni Versace
Cunanan’s most famous victim was famous fashion designer Gianni Versace. He was shot dead at his home in Miami Beach on the morning of July 15, 1995. His killer– later identified as Cunanan– was wearing a hat, dark pants, and a backpack.
Donald P. Baker, of the Washington Post, reported at the time, “Several people who heard the pop of the gunshots rushed to the scene where Versace, covered in blood, lay unmoving.”
Versace was immediately rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he was pronounced dead. According to an ABC News broadcast at the time, Versace was taking his usual morning walk to a south beach cafe where he purchased some magazines. “He then headed back home, about 3.5 blocks north, where he was shot.”
4. A New FX Show Will Chronicle Cananan’s Life and Victims
Early next year, FX will release a new series called The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.
The show comes from Ryan Murphy (a screenwriter, director, and producer known for his work on popular shows like Popular, American Horror Story, and Scream Queens), and will focus heavily on the murder of Gianni Versace.
Speaking to EW in June about the series, Ricky Martin dished:
It’s a story that needs to be told. We’re going to go mainstream with a story that talks about homophobia, that talks about hate, that talks about indifference. I feel humbled. It’s so raw and honest and so dramatic and sad. But at the same time you show the love of Gianni and Antonio and 15 years of struggling, fighting. It’s something that I really wanted to be loud about.
5. He Reportedly Had an IQ of 147
Multiple outlets report that Cunanan had a genius-level IQ of 147.
He was born on August 31, 1969 in Rancho Bernardo, California, to a father who was Filipino American and a mother who was Italian American. Cunanan was the youngest of four children, was highly intelligent, charming, and good-looking. According to Murderpedia, Cunanan’s father, who was a former navy man, described his son as an “altar boy”.
As a teenager, Cunanan was often caught in lies, and multiple medical journals and outlets have reported that his behavior suggests he may have been a psychopath.
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