He may be most known for killing a celebrity designer in the fashion world. However, before he murdered this man, he is suspected of traveling from coast to coast, ending the lives of four men along the way and devastating their families. In this edition of True Crime Corner, who was Andrew Cunanan?
Andrew Cunanan was born on August 31, 1969, the youngest of four children in the Cunanan household. His father was from the Philippines, and served in the military. His mother had a job outside the home before later being afforded to stay at home with the family. The Cunanans lived in California. After his military career was over, his father became a stockbroker who seemed to aspire to greater things, introducing his young son to the better things life had to offer.
As the family’s financial situation improved, so did their living arrangements. They moved to more desirable neighborhoods, and settled into an upscale area when Cunanan was a teen. He was enrolled in a prestigious school, where he mingled with the kids of the well off. Residents of this community had more money and possessions to show for their wealth. In his final year at school, Cunanan was voted Most Likely to Be Remembered by his classmates. Setting him apart from other students was what was written beside his yearbook photo. While others provided lengthy year-end wrap ups next to their pictures, Cunanan’s simply read the cryptic “Après moi, le déluge,” meaning “After me, the storm,” or “After me, the flood.”
Cunanan yearned for money, fame, and status, relishing living the high life. However, his lifestyle would be interrupted when his father was charged with a crime. The elder Cunanan’s answer to his legal trouble was to return to his native Philippines, leaving the family behind in the U.S. Andrew Cunanan visited his father, but their reunion was brief, as he was bothered by what he considered his father’s poor living conditions.
Cunanan returned home, desperate to keep climbing the social and economic ladder. However, he still wasn’t willing to work for the status he so craved. Instead, he attracted rich older men who would lavish him with homes and cash. He was more than happy to share his acquired wealth with friends.
No one really knew who Andrew Cunanan was, and he seemed to pride himself on that and preferred it that way. His friends knew him by other names. Sometimes he passed himself off as a divorced dad, going so far as to produce a photo of his “family” to bolster his claim. One day he might be an heir to a lot of money, and another day he could be an aspiring actor or a designer.
It’s believed that Cunanan began killing in Minnesota, when he went there to visit a friend and former boyfriend. The friend was beaten to death with a hammer. The other man was shot, and his body was found in close proximity to his home. Cunanan used this victim’s car to drive to Illinois.
The third victim was a wealthy man. He was also accosted and killed. After the brutal murder, Cunanan exchanged his vehicle near the scene for the man’s luxury car.
Cunanan continued to drive East in the stolen vehicle. He abandoned that auto in a New Jersey cemetery for an employee’s truck, after learning the police were onto him. It’s thought that the truck’s owner was the fourth victim. From there he continued on to Florida.
Once in an affluent area where he would fit in, Cunanan shot and killed the famous designer, Gianni Versace, in front of his property. He fled again, managing to elude police, despite the numerous sightings and subsequent tip calls. Cunanan never stood trial for the deaths of the innocent people he was suspected of killing. In fact, he was never arrested.
Cunanan holed up on a Florida houseboat. Police were called and the authorities descended on the home. They entered the residence after the intruder failed to leave. Once inside, Cunanan was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Although much has been speculated on the possible motive for the crime, Cunanan took the answer to his grave
I’ve heard Cunanan sometimes referred to as a spree killer, as opposed to a serial killer. From what I understand, serial killers tend to have a cooling off period between murders, while spree killers do not. Cunanan is believed to have claimed five lives over the course of a few months.
If I was going to pick up a book about these tragic events, I would choose Maureen Orth’s Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History.
There are good documentaries to be found on the subject, but I am looking forward to another season of FX’s show American Crime Story. If the upcoming The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story is as well done as The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, it’s going to be well worth the wait for anyone interested in the case.