Who was Andrew Cunanan? What to know about Gianni Versace’s killer
MANILA, Philippines – Of the crop of true crime shows currently bombarding our entertainment portals, perhaps one of the more intriguing ones is The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
The second season of American Crime Story has already generated buzz, as much for its awards and critically-acclaimed production as for its story, centered on the captivating, terrifying figure that is Andrew Cunanan, the Filipino-American killer whose murder of designer Gianni Versace was the highly-publicized crescendo of his cross-country murder spree that ultimately claimed the lives of 5 people.
Andrew – who sometimes went by the name Andrew DeSilva – was known to be a prominent presence in the West Coast gay community, charming people – in particular, wealthy gay men – with his boyish good looks, sophisticated airs, and his proclivity for picking up the tab.
Of course, he turned out to be a sham, a compulsive liar who created a persona hugely different from his less-than-glamorous real life.
In the series, Andrew is portrayed by Darren Criss, also a Filipino-American, who has since won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a SAG award for the role. After Darren’s nuanced performance Andrew’s character even has inspired even more curiosity – especially among Filipino viewers, whose radars are finely-tuned to Filipino representation all over the world. (READ: Darren Criss dedicates Golden Globes win to 'firecracker Filipino' mom)
So who is Andrew Cunanan? Since his death by suicide in 1997, the question has been more and more difficult to answer, but here are some interesting tidbits on his life, gathered from news reports at the time of his murders:
His family life was turbulent
Andrew was the youngest in his family, and supposedly the favorite. According to his siblings in an August 1997 interview in the Sun Sentinel, his parents favoured him so much they gave him the master bedroom in their home, and was the only one in the brood to be sent to an expensive prep school, The Bishop’s School.
His mother, Maryann Schillaci, was an Italian-American, and his father, Modesto Cunanan, was a Filipino-American who served in the US Navy and later became a stockbroker. Modesto was later charged with embezzlement and flew to the Philippines in 1988 to avoid being charged, leaving his family – including 19-year-old Andrew – hard up.
According to the New York Daily News, he continued to spend money carelessly even after his father fled, which led many to assume that he was being funded by a sugar daddy. His mother even described him as a “high-class homosexual prostitute.”
His high school yearbook quote was strangely prophetic
Whether he knew it or not, Andrew’s high school yearbook quote was a portent of things to come. According to a New York Daily News article in May 1997, it read: “Apres mois, le deluge,” a quote attributed to Louis XV which translates to “After me, the flood.”
That flood, of course, would turn out to be a flood of blood.
In high school, he was also voted “Most Likely to be Remembered” – another prophecy fulfilled.
He had met Gianni Versace years before the murder
When Andrew killed Versace – arguably his most high-profile victim – it apparently not their first encounter. According to a September 1997 article on Vanity Fair, Andrew and Versace previously crossed paths in October 1990 at Colossus, a nightclub in San Francisco.
In the article – written by Maureen Orth who also wrote the book that the series was based on – an eyewitness shared that Versace seemed to recognize Andrew, who he thought he had met before in Lake Como. Seven years later, on July 15, 1997, Andrew would end up killing Versace on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion.
He believed he was HIV-positive
A story in the New York Times published a few days after Versace’s murder said that according to Andrew’s friends in California, he discovered he had HIV shortly before he flew to Minnesota, where he would commit the first of his murders.
Andrew reportedly approached a counsellor at an AIDS and HIV center, sharing his fear that he might be infected, and vowing revenge on the person who passed the virus on to him.
Andrew’s last killing was himself
Eight days after he murdered Versace, and at the height of the manhunt pursuing him, Andrew committed suicide on a luxury houseboat. According to a July 1997 article in the New York Times, he had been trying to flee just a few days before, calling an acquaintance in an attempt to get a fake passport. His body was found just 40 blocks from where he shot Versace. – Rappler.com