StMU Research Scholars

The road to murder: Gianni Versace’s killer

On July 15, 1997 Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace’s life abruptly ended with a gunshot on the doorstep of his Miami beach mansion. Many of us know and love the Italian fashion line known as Versace, but most people aren’t aware of the murder of its founder, Gianni Versace. His life was taken by a 27-year-old serial killer, Andrew Cunanan. Cunanan was a desperate man craving attention in all the wrong ways and found that attention by murdering men. 1

Gianni Versace and sister, victim of Andrew Cunanan’s murder spree | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Cunanan’s road to murdering Versace began when Cunanan was 19. His father abandoned his family and fled to the Philippines to avoid embezzlement charges. He left his wife and kids broke and alone. Cunanan followed his father to the Philippines. He later returned shocked at the poor conditions his father was living in. Cunanan started spiraling downward. He acted out in hopes of attention, and sometimes he resulted to violence. There was one incident where he shoved his mother so hard he dislocated her shoulder. Later observation of his behaviors suggested he suffered from antisocial personality disorder, which results in a lack of remorse for one’s actions. Cunanan craved any kind of attention he could get. He would do anything to get what he wanted. His spiraling life led him cross country on a murder spree killing without motivation except for the attention he would gain by doing so.2

In 1989 Cunanan dropped out of the University of California, San Diego and moved to the San Francisco area where took on many aliases such as Andrew DeSilva, Lieutenant Commander Andy Cummings, Drew Cunningham, and Curt Matthew Demaris. He made up lies about where his money came from, but, in many cases, he appeared wealthy because he befriended and lived off wealthy older men. He began playing parts in creating violent pornography.3 He was often found at parties and high class clubs, which was how he met the Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace at a San Francisco club. But this life of luxury didn’t last long.4  In 1996 Cunanan broke up with Norman Blachford, who at the time was financially supporting him and his expensive gay playboy lifestyle. Broke, Cunanan, maxed out his credit cards and sold drugs to survive. Not long after that, he got a one-way ticket to Minneapolis to visit a former lover.5

On April 27,1997 Andrew Cunanan committed his first murder, killing Jeffrey Trail, a former navy lieutenant who he had met at a bar in San Diego. His body was found two days later in David Madson’s apartment wrapped up in a rug after being beaten to death. Cunanan had been staying with Madson, one of his former lovers, at the time of Trail’s disappearance. Four days later the second murder was confirmed when David Madson’s body was discovered by fishermen near a lake north of Minneapolis on May 3,1997.6

Andrew Cunanan, wanted poster | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

With the car he stole from his second victim, Cunanan made his way to Chicago where he tortured 72-year-old Lee Miglin to death and left him bound in his house where Marilyn Miglin found her husband on May 4, 1997. Cunanan left Madson’s car in a garage a few blocks from Miglin’s home and murder spree, but not before he took all the money he could find in Miglin’s home and his jade green Lexus. Cunanan had no prior relations to Lee Miglin, and so he was believed to had been in the wrong place at the wrong time when Cunanan found him.7 After this murder, Cunanan was placed on the FBI’s Ten most wanted list.8 Still on the run, Cunanan made his way to New Jersey where he claimed his fourth victim by the name of William Reese. Reese was a custodian and Finn’s Point National Cemetery. He was found in the basement of his office with a gunshot wound to head. Cunanan then dumped the stolen Lexus nearby and drove off with Reese’s red pickup truck.9

Versace mansion, site of Andrew Cunanan’s last murder | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Now in Miami, Cunanan left his red pickup in plain sight a few blocks away from Gianni Versace’s mansion.10 After the 50-year-old fashion designer returned from his morning walk, he found Andrew Cunanan at his front steps. Cunanan then shot and killed Versace on July 15, 1997.11  To kill Versace, he used the same gun that he stole from his first victim, Jeffery Trail, and that he also used to murder David Madson and William Reese.12 Cunanan fled the scene and hid out in a nearby house boat to avoid being found. Eight days after the murder of his last victim, Gianni Versace, Andrew Cunanan was discovered by the houseboat’s owner, who then shot Cunanan.13 Andrew Cunanan looked for attention his whole life, and he found it in all the wrong ways, but just like his personality, he ended everything with a bang.



  1. Gary Indiana, Three Month Fever: The Andrew Cunanan Story (New York: Cliff Street Books, 1999).
  2. Evan Thomas, and Richard Alleman, “Facing death,” Newsweek (28 July 1997): 20.
  3. Wikipedia, 2018, s.v. “Andrew Cunanan.”
  4. Evan Thomas, and Richard Alleman, “Facing death,” Newsweek, (28 July 1997): 20.
  5. Wikipedia, 2018, s.v. “Andrew Cunanan.”
  6. John MCormick and Evan Thomas, “A lethal road trip: a gay socialite is suspected of taking off on a killing spree from Minnesota to Chicago to the Northeast,” Newsweek (19 May 1997): 52.
  7. John MCormick and Evan Thomas, “A lethal road trip: a gay socialite is suspected of taking off on a killing spree from Minnesota to Chicago to the Northeast,” Newsweek, (19 May 1997): 52.
  8. Andrew Phillips, “The Cunanan enigma: Versace’s killer takes his own life and leaves a mystery,” Maclean’s, (4 Aug. 1997): 32.
  9. John MCormick and Evan Thomas, “A lethal road trip: a gay socialite is suspected of taking off on a killing spree from Minnesota to Chicago to the Northeast,” Newsweek, (19 May 1997): 52.
  10. Evan Thomas, “End of the road,” Newsweek, (4 Aug. 1997): 22.
  11. Evan Thomas, and Richard Alleman, “Facing death,” Newsweek, (28 July 1997): 20.
  12. John MCormick and Evan Thomas, “A lethal road trip: a gay socialite is suspected of taking off on a killing spree from Minnesota to Chicago to the Northeast,” Newsweek, (19 May 1997): 52.
  13. Evan Thomas, “End of the road,” Newsweek, (4 Aug. 1997): 22.

110 Responses

  1. I found it intriguing to hear of Versace’s murder considering I had never known he was murdered in the first place. Cunanan seems to be your typical serial killer, but yet he kills those who have effected him in very minor ways, and does not halt until hi undeniable death. I found it really interesting he was put on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list, however it does make sense knowing who he killed, and how he came about his killings.

  2. I cannot believe that Andrew Cunanan killed for fun and attention. The fact that he murdered Gianni Versace is a big deal but doesn’t make any of his other murders any less important. It is sad that there are people like this in our society today and you would never know this side of them until it was too late.

  3. Before reading this article, I had no idea that the founder of the luxurious brand Versace, Gianni Versace, was murdered in 1997. I wondered why Andrew Cunanan, the serial killer who killed Versace, killed his former lovers, and I wanted to know more information about his motives to kill Versace. Maybe it was his need and desire for attention; he wanted the world to know him for killing an infamous fashion designer.

  4. Gianni Versace’s story is sad but Cunanan’s story is creepy. He was an attractive male who targeted wealthy older men to help support his lifestyle of lies and mischief. He made up many lies and traveled through out and was careless about his actions which is what led him to also his death. The story is interesting but does not capture me as others have but the murder of gianni versace is one that is connected to many wealthy older men and their money. Great articvle and nice pun at the end! It made me laugh after reading something so sad.

  5. I find this article a bit sad if I am being honest. It is true when they say your youth circumstances impact how and who you are as an adult and overall growing up. Though there is no exact ‘motive’ other than wanting attention, I personally feel that being abandoned by his father affected him, however no excuse for his killing spree. Money and wanting a high end life murders people mentally and unfortunately Cunanan fell victim to it.

  6. I had known that Gianni Versace was murdered but I didn’t know that he was murdered on a killing spree of Andrew Cunanan. Andrew was known to act out in violence when he craved attention. It’s crazy to me that being financially cut off by Norman Blanchford after their breakup and being broke on the streets led him to act out in violence. Gianni Versace’s murder has recently regained attention again with the production of The Assassination of Gianni Versace series on FX in 2018

  7. This was a very good article to read, what exactly caused Cunanan to go on his crazy murdering spree that he went on or if it had no motive. With the mugshots he doesn’t look like a crazy guy or the kind of ideal guy to do this kind of thing. But then again you never know. Nonetheless its still very sad what happened Gianni Versace.

  8. I am disappointed with the ending of this story. When reading the title I imagined that the story would focus a little bit more on Gianni Versace and his story of his murder not so much on the story of his murderer. I would have liked to have a stronger conclusion instead of just, and Versace was shot. Otherwise, the life of Cunanan was interesting to follow and crazy to think that he was just killing people just to kill. A lot of serial killers do it for the same purpose however and it shocks me. Why not want to be recognized for the good things you can do in life and not the bad ones that cost people that you do not even know their life?

  9. I hadn’t heard nor did I know of Andrew Cunanan until this article, and to be quite honest, I didn’t know that Versace was dead, more less murdered. I wonder if he had a motive other than money when it came to murdering people, and I also wonder how it is that the house boat owners found him. This article was a very interesting read because it gives the events leading up to the murder of Versace, but also discusses his previous victims and why some of them were chosen.

  10. This is a very good article. I’m curious to know what exactly it was that cause Cunanan to go on his murderous spree, or if it was all without motive. According to the mugshots provided, he doesn’t LOOK very murderous, but then, I guess, who actually does? Anyways, it’s tragic that Gianni Versace was taken so prematurely, considering the enormous empire he was beginning to build.

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