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Andrew Cunanan, Versace And His Victims: An In Depth Look

Andrew DeSilva owned a posh riverside mansion in the Hollywood Hills. Lt. Commander Cummings was a high-ranking naval officer with degrees from both Choate and Yale. They were good looking, mingled with the high class, gay, and seemed to have their acts together. This is what it seemed on the outside. These were two of the many personalities of Andrew Cunanan. Ultimately, these many facets would culminate into a killer who would shock the nation. The numbers were five in ten days: Jeffrey Trail, David Madson, Lee Miglin, William Reese and Giovanni Versace. His psychology was that of a mass murderer or rampage killer. The diagnosis throughout the media would incorrectly be serial killer. However, Cunanan never liked to fit the mold. He was flamboyant and liked to cross many circles-as his criminological profile does. Serial killers never commit suicide, but that is how he would end his life ten days after the carnage began. The sad circle of Cunanan's life crossed many typologies and diagnoses. The complexity of the Cunanan's psychology laid a hand to the overall complexity of his profile.

Background of the Cunanan:

Cunanan was born August 31 1969 in Rancho Bernardo California. Economically he was surrounded by wealth on all sides, including in his own home. His father was a broker and he attended only the most prestigious prep schools. His IQ was in the gifted range, absorbing books like the bible at age six and learning three different languages all by the end of his childhood.

He was considered good-looking, flamboyant and openly gay. He craved the attention of everyone surrounding him. Oddly enough he was voted "Most likely not to be forgotten" by his high school class. Throughout his formative years, he posed no behavioral problems, being likened to an "altar boy" by his mother. After high school graduation, he attended the University of California-San Diego briefly. At this point, the life that he had become comfortable with would change.

His father had always made decent money, and Andrew knew how to spend it. He loved money surrounding himself with very wealthy older gay men. They would provide him with cars, expensive clothes and dinner at only the best restaurants. However, this was not always stable economically-this is where his father's money would provide a sense of stability. It was a stability that Cunanan needed, but moreover a stability and wealth he wanted the world to see. Andrew learned that his father was in trouble for cheating clients out of money. He fled the United States for Manila, leaving Cunanan's family penniless. Andrew dropped out of school to join him, but after seeing the squander and "despicable and destitute" living situation of his father, he made his way back to the United States. This was in 1988(crimelibrary.com).

Cunanan never held down jobs, which meant he needed to rely solely on others. He had started this in college, but with his father's finances now non-existent, he needed to rely solely on everyone else. This way of life turned out to be something that Cunanan was very good with. His incessant need to be noticed and show off was received highly by the gay community is San Francisco. His car was a brand new Infiniti, his property was oceanfront, he had a $2, 500 monthly allowance-all provided by his "gentlemen friends"(serialkillers.com).

However, the life of lavish ended late in 1996 when he was dumped by his boyfriend and started taking drugs. Early reports also speculated that it was at this time when Cunanan was fearful that he had contracted AIDS from one of his many partners. His physical appearance and attitude changed-looking unkempt, gaining weight and not having any money. As 1997 started to move on, he told friends that he was moving to San Francisco in April, and that there would be a farewell party. He again planned extravagantly his send off to San Francisco. The only thing that was different is the flight was not to San Francisco as he had said-it was to Minneapolis. This would be where the ten-day rampage would begin.


Jeffrey Trail & David Madson

Jeffrey Trail was Cunanan's first victim. He was also one of the reasons why Andrew traveled to Minneapolis. When Trail was a naval officer, he was stationed at San Diego Harbor, where he met Andrew Cunanan. They had an affair, and Trail subsequently left the Navy for a job in Minneapolis. Cunanan was never thrilled with this, but promised to visit Trail.

While in Minneapolis Trail met David Madson and the two became lovers. Oddly enough, both Madson and Trail, booth from California, had never met previously. They soon became intimate. This especially troubled Andrew since he at one time or another had sexual relationships with both men. Cunanan was "staying" at Madson's loft when he learned about Madson and Trail. This "scorned lover" theory lends way to the night of April 27 when Trail was killed. Cunanan and Trail had a lengthy argument on the phone two days prior-some speculate over Cunanan's drug use and Andrew insinuating about having and affair. One day later Cunanan called and left a message for Trail, inviting him over to Madson's loft to clear everything up. That next night Trail went to Madson's apartment. Again, he and Cunanan started arguing. Everything turned violent. Cunanan then went into the kitchen, grabbed a club hammer, and pounded on Trail's head.

Cunanan and Madson then took Trail's body, rolled it up in a rug and put it in the corner of the living room. Two days later, they both drove towards a lake in Minneapolis. Cunanan pulled over the car and shot Madson several times with a .40 caliber gun. He then dumped him into the lake, and Madson, like Trail, was not found until a couple days later.


The murder of Jeffrey Trail can be looked at two ways: the "scorned lover" theory

On the other hand, it could be seen as an act that occurred in the heat of anger. Ultimately in this case, one lead to another. Cunanan definitely felt like the scorned lover-however, it was questionable that he had the capacity to kill. Did he methodically plan to bring Trail to the loft to kill him that night? Most likely not. Some critics say otherwise stating the one-way ticket to Minneapolis. (crimelibrary.com) However, it is conceivable that Cunanan believed he could use Madson and/or Trail for money, as he had done previously with other men. Though Cunanan was jilted, this was more of a murder about anger. The fact that Trail was bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer on the skull is important as well. This may have been the signature for Cunanan's killing style *(Holmes 129).

The murder of David Madson, a man who Cunanan at one time "adored" blurred the common lines of profiling. This was the only killing that involved sexual torture and humiliation of the victim (129). On the outside it reads as a "get rid of the witness" killing, but the method of torture, and the previous history between the two leads to a different path. This murder was really, where Cunanan evolved into a serial killer. Whereas in the Trail killing it can be construed as Cunanan "just snapped, " with Madson he became more involved in the slow kill and torture and more organized. He seemed to be more focused on the process, dumping the body in the lake. In some respects, Cunanan felt embarrassed by what had occurred between the three. He was humiliated; therefore, he humiliated Madson with sexual torture. Again, he too was shot in the head.

Lee Miglin

Lee Miglin was a 72-year-old real estate developer from Chicago. Whether or not he had a previous relationship with Miglin is unknown. Some say his son Duke Miglin, is a closeted homosexual and had encounters with Cunanan. Other reports say that Lee Miglin himself was homosexual, and exactly the type of person Cunanan could prey money out of. Either way, it is still unclear what, if any relation Miglin had with Cunanan.

Since this is unknown, how Cunanan approached Miglin is widely disputed. Miglin was lead into his garage, bound and his face wrapped in duct tape (only his nostrils were left with an opening) and proceeded to beat him. Moments later, he took pruning shears and stabbed Miglin several times in the chest. Miglin survived this, until Cunanan slit his throat with a hacksaw. He then placed Miglin under his own car and ran over him several times. After he was dead, Cunanan went inside, made himself sandwiches and had a glass of orange juice. He stole Miglin's green Lexus and fled.


The murder of David Madson peaked Andrew Cunanan's psychological development into a serial killer. The murder of Lee Miglin peaked the psychological thrills that he was getting from murder. With Miglin's murder, he made no effort to conceal his identity. Since he enjoyed attention, he enjoyed the media feeding frenzy over who he was. The torture and method of killing Miglin was the most heinous. (Sycamnias 58). The intimacy and extent of what occurred makes the theory that "Cunanan did not know Miglin, he was the first man he came to" hard to set in stone. The fact that after the murder, Cunanan left Madson's red jeep with pictures of him displayed on the seats shows the peak in Cunanan's profile (104). He officially felt he was unstoppable. Again, it must be noted the covering of Miglin's face with the duct tape, which will be discussed later.

William Reese

William Reese was a cemetery worker in New Jersey. Cunanan knocked on the door and asked for a glass of water. Reese obliged. Cunanan then told him to give him his truck keys. Again, Reese obliged. Cunanan then shot him point blank.


This killing was nothing more than for profit. Though Cunanan felt unstoppable after Miglin's murder, he soon began to realize that this was not entirely true. There were bulletins, news reports and FBI fliers all across America with his name and face on them. It is at this point; where he begins to "wind down"; He is now desperate and does not feel like he has total control. Reese' murder was purely for profit and gain-a car.(holmes-Profiling Violent Crimes 127).


Versace had a ritual: every morning he would walk down 11th street in Miami Beach, stick the key into his rot iron gate, and go inside. Andrew Cunanan seemed to have known this routine well. He had stayed in Miami for a couple of days, still going out into crowds, combing gay bars, and even dressing like a woman at times. He had become a master of disguise for his nightlife. During the day, he walked around like any normal person. One morning, as Versace had completed his walk and put his key in the gate, Cunanan walked up behind him and shot him directly in the head-in broad daylight.


The killing of Versace to some was the culmination of Cunanan's previous killings. (Salerian). Media outlets had suggested that Versace turned down Cunanan at one point for a modeling job. Others felt that Versace was an icon to the gay community-and similar to what Andrew had preyed upon in California. The media seemed to become fed up wondering who Cunanan was and where he was-the story became back page. The killing of Versace, in broad daylight nonetheless, was a bold move that would get the attention Cunanan always craved. Again, Versace was shot in the head, point blank.

Hybrid Diagnosis

Andrew Cunanan is not a serial murderer. In fact, he is a prime example of a spree killer. Robert Ressler, the criminologist who developed the term "serial killer" called those who argued that Cunanan was a serial killer "misinformed." One of these men was John Douglas, a former FBI profiler and a self-proclaimed authority on issues such as this. Looking quickly at the victims: Madson and Trail were killed out of jealousy, Lee Miglin was killed for revenge (or wrong place wrong time dependent upon who is spoken to) Reese was killed for a car and Versace was killed out of jealousy and revenge. Before Jeffrey Trail, Cunanan had never really shown any signs of violent tendencies to be concerned about. Serial Killers like Ted Bundy or Son of Sam did not have their faces on television every night before they were caught. Those men also lived somewhat boring daily lives-their secret lives of murder being swept under the rug. They were secretive about their murders because of the satisfaction they got from them. Cunanan right from the beginning left blatant clues for the police. A spree killer has between four and five victims.

Cunanan had five, not including himself. Cunanan is the prototype for how a spree killer works. He killed five men in less than two and a half months. They also kill those people who have given them pain, or rejection and had somehow wronged them in any way. He tried to justify the killings to himself by recounting the rejection and humiliation each victim had given him at one point in his life. Psychologically Cunanan never wanted to be captured by the police. He enjoyed eluded them. When he felt as if they were closing in, he killed himself. The psyche of a serial killer is drastically different from one of a spree-murderer (Godwin 12). This is why Cunanan is a man who went on a rampage as a spree killer, not serial killer. He was pushed to the edge by a type of personal crisis. This triggered previously unseen violent tendencies. (Crime Classification Manual).


In order to fully comprehend Andrew Cunanan, Holmes and Holmes have come up with two different types of categories to better understand the offender. One of these theories is the Disorganized/Organized typology, along with the Visionaries, Missionaries and Hedonists typologies. The Disorganized/Organized typology is based upon the obsessive-compulsive characteristics of the serial killer. The other category is based upon the different motives of the killer. Since there are no definite subcategories or typologies specific to spree killers, these typologies are generally accepted for now. Both typologies use the crime scene analysis as a basis for their conclusions.

Looking more in depth at the Disorganized/Organized theory, Cunanan fits the type of an "organized non-social offender." This term for Cunanan is misleading. The term "organized" in this situation means psychopathic. Andrew Cunanan knew right from wrong but felt no remorse for his actions. His crime scene is somewhat organized, but not meticulously. As with most non-social offenders, his IQ is very high, in the 150 range. Socially he was adequate, Dating frequently, kept good hygiene and drove a very flashy car, He liked to play games with the police and constantly followed the news media-even before he murdered Jeffrey Trail. Cunanan may have been suffering from personality disorder. (Holmes 67). However, many of his traits fit the disorganized offender as well. This leads into Holmes' other typologies. Since Cunanan was seen as an organized, non-social offender, people placed power and pleasure as underlying motives. Some even construe his murders as sport or play. Disfiguring faces was Cunanan's signature. This showed a rage-filled and angry killing. By doing so, he dehumanized the victims.

Andrew Cunanan blurs so many lines when it comes to typologies. (Please see chart 1.1 Crime Scene Characteristics Associated Holmes Typologies). Cunanan was not interested in the quick kill; therefore, he was not act-focused. However, he got a type of high from the slow kill-this means he was process focused. His first killing of Jeffrey Trail seemed unplanned-an act of rage. But Trail and Cunanan were having an argument. Trail was now something he could not have, and Cunanan was used to getting what he wanted. The Power/Control Serial Killer "receives sexual gratification from the complete domination of his victim"(129). This definition has been molded so that the gratification is not necessarily sexual. Trail's murder fits this profile very well. Cunanan's anger stemmed from his need of total control over both Trail and Madson. When he was unable to achieve this, he snapped. (Godwin 26). Each murder shows signs of Power/Control. However, two did not fit the power/control mold exclusively.

Madson's murder not only showed signs of power /control, but of lust oriented hedonist as well. This was the only murder where some form of sexual torture was involved. However, it can be deduced that sexual pleasure was not associated with the murder. The sexual torture of David Madson was not simply about a high from sex-it was about humiliation and domination. David Madson knew he was going to die, and Cunanan knew he could obtain anything he wanted from Madson. William Reese's murder was purely for profit and gain. This is the "comfort oriented hedonist" typology. Reese had handed over the keys to his truck without a fight. He had done nothing but agree to everything Cunanan asked him to. Even so, Andrew shot him point blank in the head. At this point, he knew he was winding down, yet still knew that he could pamper his psyche by killing this man.

The power control killer is very similar to the lust and thrill killers. This is why it is not unconventional for a serial killer to lay in many categories. The Sex or the actual kill is not the murderer's central focus point. It is the idea that they have total control and domination over the victim: more importantly, they have the control over life and death. "If there is any one common motive among serial killers, it's playing God, having the power over life and death of another individual."It's a very intoxicating experience." Said Gregg McCrary, former FBI profiler on CBS' 48 Hours.

Ultimately, the many facets of Andrew Cunanan would culminate into a killer who would shock the nation. Five in ten days: Jeffrey Trail, David Madson, Lee Miglin, William Reese and Giovanni Versace. He traveled across the country. His psychology was that of a mass murderer or rampage killer. The diagnosis throughout the media would incorrectly be serial killer. However, Cunanan never liked to fit the mold. He was flamboyant and liked to cross many circles-as his criminological profile does. Serial killers never commit suicide, but that is how he would end his life ten days after the carnage began. The sad circle of Cunanan's life crossed many typologies and diagnoses. The complexity of the Cunanan's psychology laid a hand to the overall complexity of his profile.

Works Cited Douglas, J., Burgess, A., Burgess, A., & Ressler, R. (1992). Crime Classification Manual.Lexington, MA:LexingtonBooks. Douglas, J. & Olshaker, M. (1999). Anatomy of Motive. NY: Pocket Books. Egger, S. (1984). "A working definition of serial murder and the reduction of linkage blindness." Journal of Police Science and Administration 12(3): 348-57. Ferguson, C., D. White, S. Cherry, M. Lorenz & Z. Bhimani. (2003). "Defining and classifying serial murder in the context of perpetrator motivation." Journal of Criminal Justice 31: 287-292. Godwin, M. (1999). Hunting Serial Predators: A Multivariate Classification Approach to Profiling Violent Behavior. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Hickey, E. (1997). Serial Murderers and Their Victims, 2e. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Holmes, R. (1995) Sex Crimes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Holmes, R. & S. Holmes. (2002). Profiling Violent Crime: An Investigative Tool, 3e. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Jenkins, B. (1994). Using Murder: The Social Construction of Serial Homicide. NY: Aldine de Gruyter. Salerian, Dr. Alen J. "What Makes a Serial Killer Tick?" The Washington Times. 24 Oct. 2002. News World Communications. 23 Feb. 2003. Sycamnias, Evan. "Evaluating the Psychological Profile of a Serial Killer." Online. Internet. 23. Feb. 2003. Available http://www.serialhomicide.com/serial-killers.htm. "Modus Operandi: Serial Murder: An Introduction." Online. Internet. 23 Feb. 2003. Available http://www.fortunecity.com/roswell/streiber/273/inf_intro.htm

By Katie A. Raymond-Santo - Katie is an award-winning investigative journalist in the media industry.  

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