In late summer of 1997, the nation was shocked to learn of the midday shooting of Gianni Versace, the famous clothing designer, in Miami Beach. As the story unfolded, and the public learned of a series of killings and the fact that the killer was at large, a wave of fear swept across America. People were riveted by the fact that the killer could change identities like a chameleon, and that he was openly gay. Cunanan’s life consisted of much more than the facts portrayed in the last few months before he killed himself. In the process of understanding Andrew Cunanan, this paper will explore three main ideas. First, aspects of his life prior to the killings will be analyzed. Next, accounts of his victims and why they were killed will be examined. Finally, unique aspects of these murders in relation to Cunanan’s sexual orientation will be explained.
Andrew Cunanan was a brilliant, charming little boy at one point in time, according to his godfather. He was born on August 31, 1969, the product of a rocky marriage. Mary Anne Shilacci had not found the attentive husband she was looking for in Modesto Cunanan. At the time of the birth of their first child, Christopher, in 1961, the family lived in San Diego. Modesto had remained in the Navy, working for the hospital corps, after serving in the Fleet Marines in Vietnam. He spent quite a bit of time away from home, all the while positive his wife was cheating on him. Their daughter, Elena, was born in 1963, and Modesto claimed the child wasn’t his. Nevertheless, the family lived in Long Beach and then in New York, moving from one naval town to the next. Back in California, their third child, Regina, was born in 1967. When Andrew followed two years later, the Cunanan household was living in San Diego.
The accusations of infidelity had worn down Mary Anne to the point she was unable to care for Andrew due to depression. Modesto raised the boy primarily by himself. The family appeared, however, to live relatively normally. They were seen trekking to McDonald’s or to the mall. The family inherited a large sum from Mary Anne’s father, which they invested in a new home. The children had plenty of stimulation in their suburban neighborhood with many friends and toys to play with. The adult Cunanan children confided to authorities that their parents’ marriage became more and more volatile, with screaming fights occurring often. They claim that Andrew retreated to his bedroom to lose himself in fantasy books or his favorite show, Mork and Mindy.