The Assassination of Gianni Versace doesn't just tell the story of one shocking murder. Andrew Cunanan's crime spree unfolded over the course of several months and the show explores his story, as well as the stories of each of his victims. But how many people did Andrew Cunanan kill? He had five reported victims in total, and Gianni Versace was his final one.
Cunanan's first two victims were Jeffrey Trail and David Madson, a friend and ex-boyfriend respectively. Their deaths occurred within a week of each other after Cunanan traveled to Minnesota from San Diego to visit with both. Before leaving San Diego, The New York Times reported that he mentioned having to "settle some business" with Trail, but it seems he did not specify exactly what his intentions were. There doesn't appear to be any indication that the crime was planned ahead of time, but it does seem that Cunanan's relationships with both men had become tense.
Trail's sister, Lisa Stravinskas, told The New York Times that Cunanan idolized her brother to the point of copying his clothes and hairstyles, but when Trail told her about Cunanan's visit, he said he "did not want Andrew to come." According to her, Trail was worried that Cunanan would "make trouble" for him and his new partner.
Meanwhile, Cunanan was reportedly very in love with Madson, but their breakup had not be amicable. In 1997, Cunanan's former roommate Erik Greenman told ABC News, "[Cunanan] loved David Madson very, very much... [But after the breakup,] David didn't want anything to do with him. I mean, David was Andrew's life. He said many, many times that he would give up everything to move out to Minneapolis for David."
In April 1997, Trail agreed to meet with Cunanan at Madson's apartment. It was there that Cunanan beat him to death with a hammer and rolled his body up in a rug, where it was later discovered. ABC News stated that police believed Cunanan held Madson hostage there for two days before driving out with him to East Rush Lake, where Cunanan then proceeded to shoot and kill Madson. He took Madson's car and drove to Chicago, where he killed his third victim, Lee Miglin.
In Cunanan's final three murders, there was seemingly no personal connection between him and his victims, which made understanding his motives all the more difficult. Miglin's death was especially brutal: Cunanan bound him with tape and plastic, almost entirely covering his face with it aside from two air holes at his nose, and then tortured him. In a piece for Vanity Fair, Maureen Orth wrote that Miglin's ribs were broken, he was stabbed with garden shears, and his throat was slit using a garden bow saw. (Orth also wrote the book Vulgar Favors on which The Assassination of Gianni Versace is based.)
Former FBI criminal profiler Candice DeLong told ABC News, "I think when Andrew killed Lee Miglin he was acting out a sexual fantasy. He didn't have to do what he did — tie him up the way he did, render him helpless. When a sadist renders their victim helpless, it enhance the experience for them. It's arousing for them. Domination and control is what it's all about."
Orth also reported that Cunanan's former roommate Greenman said Cunanan had an interest in S&M, describing him as "the tying-up-and-whips type — just the degradation, not the asphyxiation." She also spoke to a former friend of Cunanan's named John Semerau, who said Cunanan had choked him once. However, despite speculation, it's unclear exactly what Cunanan's motives were in killing Miglin. He did take Miglin's car (leaving Madson's behind), as well as a leather jacket, watch, and $2,000 in cash, as reported by the Chicago Tribune shortly after Miglin's body was discovered.
Afterward, Cunanan traveled to New Jersey, where he shot his fourth victim William Reese, a cemetery caretaker. It was assumed that he did so to switch cars yet again, because Miglin's car was abandoned and Cunanan took Reese's red pickup truck to Miami, according to The New York Daily News. Cunanan lived in Miami for two months before he shot Versace, early in the morning on July 15, 1997. Eight days later, Cunanan shot himself (using the gun he had also used to kill Madson, Reese, and Versace) and made it impossible for anyone to ever understand why he did what he did.
When it came to figuring out why he killed Versace, the Chicago Tribune reported that Police Chief Richard Baretto said, "We can speculate about the motive being robbery, or Andrew Cunanan going out in a big way, or revenge for some perceived act by Versace. But, unfortunately, the real answer went down with the ship, so to speak, when Andrew Cunanan committed suicide."
The promos for The Assassination of Gianni Versace indicate that the show will try to delve into Cunanan's mind, but without Cunanan around to provide answers, it can only be considered speculation. The Versace family released a statement, reported by E! News, that said they wanted the show to be viewed as fiction; in response, FX and 20th Century Fox stood by the research done by Orth in her series-inspiring book.
Cunanan's death meant that no one would ever get an explanation for his actions, and it also meant that there could never be true justice because he could not be convicted or serve jail time for the five murders. The FX series might offer some insight, but Cunanan's true motives will never be known.
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