About the Book
About the Author
Title Page
Part I
1. Mother
2. Childhood
3. Bishop’s
4. Pete
5. Berkeley
6. Capriccio
7. Hillcrest
8. Jeff
9. Crystal
10. Kept Boy
11. David
12. Breakup
13. Bad Manners
14. Unravel
15. Spinning
16. Good-bye
Part II
17. Murder
18. Suspect
19. Chisago
20. Miglin
21. Minefield
22. Fatal Error
23. Whispers
24. Reese
25. The Lid
26. Cross-Purposes
Part III
27. Escape
28. Underbelly
29. What’s Gay Got to Do with It?
30. The Secret
31. Most Wanted
32. Broad Daylight
33. King Kong
34. The Family
35. Miami Mishaps
36. Show Me the Money
37. The Rainbow
38. Profile and Prosecute
39. The Last Night of Carnival
Part IV
40. Dead Is Dead
41. Echoes

About the Book

On 15 July 1997, Gianni Versace was shot dead on the steps of his Miami Beach mansion. Within hours, the police had identified his murderer as Andrew Cunanan, a serial killer on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

At the time of Versace’s murder, award-winning journalist Maureen Orth was already investigating Cunanan’s killing spree for Vanity Fair. Drawing on over 400 interviews and thousands of pages of police reports, she reveals the story of what led Cunanan to become one of America’s most notorious serial killers, and how he managed to elude the police and FBI for so long.

The basis for the new drama series The Assassination of Gianni Versace, this is a riveting account of a sociopath, his savage crimes, and the mysteries he left along the way.

About the Author

Maureen Orth’s award-winning career began as one of the first women writers at Newsweek. Currently a Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair, she has profiled everyone from Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel to Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift, and has researched and written groundbreaking pieces on Woody Allen and Michael Jackson, among others. Her far-ranging work not only includes the investigation of serial killer Andrew Cunanan and of pedophile priests but a best-selling cover story for National Geographic on the Virgin Mary.


For Tim and for Luke and for my mother, who told me, “Any damn fool can write a book.”

Just look at the vulgar favors that give the crowds of the capital such delight … Its amusements are insolent, obscene, clumsy and boorish … You despise these lewd doings and yet you suffer them.

—from the Richard Strauss opera Capriccio


THE PHONE RANG about 1 A.M., and my husband sleepily caught the receiver.

“Is Maureen Orth there? Is this Maureen Orth, the writer?” The male voice was insistent.

“Who’s this?”

“I want to discuss the article.” A pause, then a click.

“It sounds like him,” my husband told me.


“The guy you’re writing about.”

“What? You mean Andrew Cunanan?”

“Weird,” my husband said. Then he flopped over and went back to sleep. But by then I was wide awake.

About ten days later, hours after Gianni Versace, the famed fashion designer and gay icon, was murdered, the phone rang again a little after 1 A.M. I was already booked on a morning plane to Miami to report the breaking story of Versace’s murder, because the number-one suspect was Andrew Cunanan. By then I had been reporting on Cunanan for nearly two months for Vanity Fair magazine—his favorite publication. I also had learned that he had met Versace several years earlier and that he was suspected of killing four other people, including his best friend and the only man he ever said he loved.

“Hello. Is Maureen Orth there?” My husband recognized the same gay male voice. “Who’s calling?” But the person on the other end thought better of it. The long-distance background sound cut off abruptly. I will never know if I thereby lost the scoop of my life.

Under any other circumstances, appearing in Vanity Fair would have been Andrew Cunanan’s dream come true. By then, however, in early July 1997, he was about to become the subject of one of the largest manhunts in FBI history. Thousands of people would be looking for him, yet nobody knew where he was.

Nine days later, Andrew Cunanan’s body was found on what would become an infamous Miami Beach houseboat. Moreover, the aftermath of his crimes and his cruel and tragic journey through America would reverberate for months. What began in the media misleadingly as a “gay lovers’ quarrel,” confined to a closed but “out” gay world, built as Cunanan’s murders became more heinous and bold into a story that catapulted him to the forefront of the mainstream press—leading the evening news, on the cover of both Time and Newsweek. But before Andrew Cunanan killed Gianni Versace and gained worldwide notoriety, he had already traversed a gay parallel universe in America today—traveling from the seamy, drug-addled underbelly of the demimonde to the cultured and privileged world of the rich and the closeted.

Andrew fit in anywhere. He could discourse about art and architecture, and he was a walking encyclopedia of labels and status. As a kept boy, he got all the way to the Gritti Palace in Venice and a house on Cap-Ferrat. But then he fell in love with a hardworking young architect and—ostensibly because the rich older man who paid his way wouldn’t give him the model Mercedes he wanted—he walked out of the pampered world to which he’d always aspired.

No matter how much Andrew Cunanan got, he always wanted more—more drugs, kinkier sex, better wine. Somehow he had come to believe that they were his due. And why not? He was always the life of the party, the smartest boy at the table. But at twenty-seven he was also a narcissistic nightmare of vainglorious self-absorption, a practiced pathological liar who created alternate realities for himself and was clever enough to pull off his deceptions. In the trusting or superficial circles in which he traveled, Andrew made himself indispensable. Lurking just beneath the charm, however, a sinister psychosis was brewing, aided by Andrew’s habits of watching violent pornography and ingesting crystal meth, cocaine, and various other drugs so prevalent in some circles of gay life today—but not spoken of. “Anyone who has done crystal and been on a bad streak can look at this whole thing [and understand],” says Joe Sullivan, a former crystal-meth user who knew Andrew in San Diego. “I cannot believe not one person has associated a crystal freakout with this.”

As I reported Andrew Cunanan’s story, it was up to me to try to unravel the lies and untangle the contradictions—he did not yield his secrets easily. He began life as a beautiful child of mixed Filipino and Italian heritage with an IQ of 147. But his parents had a desperately unhappy marriage, and they counted on their youngest child to save and validate them. Under tremendous pressure from them, the gifted little boy was never able to form a coherent adult personality. The more I learned about him, the sadder it was to see how drugs and illicit sex increasingly coarsened his instincts, how prostitution on many levels eventually left him lazy and unprepared. When the jig was up, he had no professional or moral resources to fall back on. He had been seduced himself by a greedy, callous, and pornographic world that proffered the superficial values of youth, beauty, and money as the maximum attainments of a happy life. In the end Andrew Cunanan, so witty and quick, the product of a fanatically Catholic mother and a just as fanatically materialistic father, gave in to his mean darkness and inflicted incalculable pain on others.

In following the skewed path of Andrew Cunanan, I became fascinated with the idea that I was not merely reporting about a warped young man and his bloody violence. I, too, was making an offbeat odyssey through end-of-the-century America, where new communities had formed in the last two decades, where political correctness in the melt-resistant melting pot paralyzed many aspects of law enforcement and the media, where money papered over a lot of lapses. Some things, of course, are eternal, such as the ability of powerful families to block exposition of the truth and to keep their secrets hidden.

Throughout my travels I found that gays as a cohesive group are in dynamic, alternating stages of political formation. Their ability to organize locally directly affects their influence with law enforcement. In San Francisco and New York, Andrew would have been hard put to hide. In South Beach, a mecca created for tourist escape, on the other hand, the large gay community demands little in the way of protection. In fact, it often appears that they are in complete denial about needing protection of any kind, including sexual.

Beyond South Beach, I found denial throughout the country of widespread drug use as well as of structures designed to foster such use, both in the gay community and on the part of law enforcement, which seems uncomfortable with the idea of broaching certain subjects for fear it will be perceived as harassing gays. If the FBI were more familiar with the gay world of South Florida, for example, Andrew Cunanan, a Top Ten Wanted criminal, would never have been able to live freely at the Normandy Plaza hotel for nearly two months or to leave a stolen red truck in a parking garage for weeks on end. As it was, a nationwide manhunt that cost millions yielded little result. Kevin Rickett, the intense young FBI agent in charge of the Minnesota Fugitive Task Force for the Bureau, which led the national investigation, told me, “There were not many successful moments of the investigation, because we never were really close to him. We never did catch up with him.”

The story, which leapt from coast to coast, kept taking me into areas I could not have imagined at the onset. I had no idea of the profound affect the O. J. Simpson trial has had on local and state prosecutors, who now are extremely reluctant to charge suspected killers on less than airtight circumstantial evidence. “O.J.’s tainted everything,” Paul Scrimshaw, Miami Beach’s lead detective in the Versace investigation, told me. “Everybody’s afraid; nobody wants to look bad. Every investigation is now tainted because of O.J. Barry Scheck should be drawn and quartered.”

It was heartening by the end to see the FBI, at least on the national level, make a real effort to redress its previous weaknesses. Andrew Cunanan’s evil crimes turned out to be a positive catalyst for putting new practices into effect and for helping foster cooperation among police agencies as well as between the police and the gay community. To this day, however, although there is a national mechanism to trace a missing car, there is none that can find a missing person.

Andrew Cunanan also fueled a tabloid era of saturation coverage of sensational crime stories that O.J. had revived. Hard Copy producer Santina Leuci says, “Cunanan had all the elements—sex, violence, a serial killer. And he’s on the run, a whole police force looking for him, a whole country waiting for him to be caught.” What happens when a story becomes the number-one story in America today? I was suddenly in the middle of the tidal wave. The tabloid media are the modern-day equivalent of the circus sideshows of the early part of the century. We now have around-the-clock televised freaks we can all watch together every day and every night, and each year certain individuals are exalted to Exhibit Number One. Andrew Cunanan—“He’s Gay! He’s Sick! He Kills the Rich and Famous!”—occupied that space for a short while, only to be displaced by a princess.

I was amazed by how much and how fast money changes hands when a story such as this one explodes. A conventional print journalist is at a total disadvantage. A kind of frenzy takes hold in which the media coverage drives the police investigation and the political response, and anyone who wants to can participate through broadcast and print and the Internet with the grieving families at the funerals, with the beleaguered police, with the entire cast of characters. It’s an all-day, all-night global soap opera. The overwhelmed families of victims are forced to feed the hungry beast. So are the cops and politicians.

I will never forget the day I was sitting in a mixed bar—one for both gays and lesbians—in the heart of the Castro district of San Francisco with a witty denizen, Doug Conaway, who directed my attention to a metal grille beside a bank building across the street. It was covered with dead bouquets, which had been placed there to commemorate Princess Diana’s funeral. The bouquets, he said, were a way for the neighborhood to get in on the act. The neighborhood, it seemed, felt similarly proprietary toward Andrew.

“When I came home to hear that Versace had been shot and they think it’s Cunanan, I thought, my God, he once lived in our neighborhood,” Conaway confided. “If it weren’t for Cunanan, we wouldn’t have seen Diana at Versace’s funeral, so someone from our neighborhood caused that. But then, when Cunanan’s body was found, I was so disappointed. What am I supposed to go back to? Campaign finance reform?

“Thank God for Diana’s death—it’s been like a miniseries. Her death gave our street so much to do.” He regarded me dryly, decided he was on a roll, and continued: “Now, if Elton John gets AIDS, and Liz Taylor goes to his bedside, and Liz Taylor has a stroke and she dies, and Michael Jackson goes to her funeral and his face falls off—it makes everyone feel the connection.”

By the time I finished my reporting, I realized that I had been on a long, strange trip, from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis to FBI headquarters in Washington, from the cornfields of the Midwest to the skyscrapers of Chicago, from Mr. S Leather in San Francisco to the San Francisco Opera. I walked the beaches of tony, closeted La Jolla and frolicked in the gay abandon of South Beach. I met important law-enforcement officials, crystal-meth dealers, homicide detectives, dungeon masters, and personal trainers. Some of my sources were in jail. I got to know police chiefs and $10,000-a-weekend male prostitutes—even the piano player in the whorehouse. Andrew Cunanan shook all of those worlds.

After he died, I tried to pick up the pieces.





THE LAST REMAINS of Andrew Cunanan have been interred behind a marble slab in a sunny mausoleum at the Holy Cross Cemetery in San Diego, paid for with money his mother received for doing an interview on Paramount television’s Hard Copy. In order to keep the media out that day, the security was ironclad. Only one car, with a previously cleared license number, was allowed to approach the site. The FBI was on alert. By then it had been six weeks since the twenty-seven-year-old Cunanan had calmly walked up and shot Gianni Versace at point-blank range on the steps of the Italian fashion designer’s Miami Beach mansion, touching off the largest failed manhunt in U.S. history.

Now, several days later, on August 29, 1997, two days before what would have been Andrew’s twenty-eighth birthday, a Mass for the Souls is being offered in the cemetery chapel for all those put to rest during the previous week. On this occasion, neither the FBI nor the news media is anywhere in sight. Andrew’s mother, MaryAnn Schillaci Cunanan, has invited to attend old friends and acquaintances who knew Andrew as a bright schoolboy, not as the psychotic “gay gigolo” of the headlines. About fifteen people show up, including Andrew’s Filipino godfather, eighty-six-year-old Delfin Labao. None of his three siblings, who live at some distance and have already attended a family memorial, is here; nor is his father, who fled in disgrace to his native Philippines in 1988, leaving his family behind. Modesto “Pete” Cunanan has not been in the United States since.

MaryAnn has arrived early to light candles at the as yet uncarved tombstone commemorating her son. She chooses to believe—in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary—that the youngest of her four children was not a sexually sadistic spree killer. She refuses to believe that he killed five innocent people before turning a stolen .40 caliber weapon on himself. MaryAnn is obviously very fragile, by turns garrulous and stupefied, teetering on the brink of total emotional meltdown. Mainly, she seems to be all sweetness and light, but her mood can swing at any time.

She is wearing a yellow shirt of Andrew’s and blue rayon printed pants. She goes up the aisle to a front-row pew, clutching a large plastic mug filled with ice water with which to wash down her medications. From her pocket she takes out printed mass cards in Andrew’s honor and distributes them. On the front is a picture of either Jesus or Mary. On the back is written:

In memory of Andrew P. Cunanan,
August 31, 1969–July 23, 1997

I’d like the memory of me

to be a happy one …

I’d like to leave an echo

of happy times and laughing times

Andrew Cunanan’s name does not appear on the handwritten list posted at the back of the church to indicate the individuals for whom the Mass is being celebrated. Indeed, when the priest reads his name, he reads it as MaryAnn has submitted it to him: Andrew Cunanan Schillaci. The other worshipers, who have also lost loved ones, have no idea that one infamous soul is being prayed for here today.

By coincidence the Gospel, from St. Mark, is the story of the beheading of John the Baptist. “Now, nobody’s going to cut off anybody’s head,” Monsignor Francis Pattison says calmly from the pulpit. Maybe he doesn’t know that Andrew’s third victim, Chicago real-estate magnate Lee Miglin, had his throat brutally slit with a garden bow saw. “And why do people do such things?” the priest asks. “Saying there is evil in the world, or the devil made me do it, is the biggest cop-out there is. You have to take responsibility for your actions.” MaryAnn Cunanan stares straight ahead.

And why did Andrew kill those five people before killing himself on a boarded-up houseboat in Miami Beach? The FBI conducted more than a thousand interviews, but still the Bureau professes to know very little. Andrew’s old schoolmates and the hundreds of people he interacted with in his short life appear perplexed. His mother believes that whatever happened, her son was set up and is now a saint in heaven.

MaryAnn’s dark eyes burn as she hugs those who have come to the service. One well-dressed woman presses money into her palm. “Closure,” whispers Sister Dolores, Andrew’s old catechism teacher from Saint Rose of Lima Parish in nearby Chula Vista, when she comes up to MaryAnn. She urges her to think about other things and rest. “You need closure.”

But there is too much pain for that.



MARYANN CUNANAN GIVES away whatever money she gets—to cab drivers, to the church, to whomever. On the dusty street where she lives alone in a small, run-down, one-bedroom bungalow in National City, far from her other three children, she has sunk several thousand dollars into landscaping a small plot next to her house as a memorial garden to Andrew.

Following Andrew’s Mass for the Souls at Holy Cross, MaryAnn returns home and shows visitors the plot, which contains a few sad cacti and a wilted basil plant. Then she goes inside, puts her false teeth in her pocket, and begins chain-smoking and talking nonstop—demanding constant attention, changing her mind repeatedly about what she wants for lunch, telling one visitor to look for forks “in the drawer with the brooches.”

It is one of the grotesqueries of the tabloid culture we live in that no matter what heinous crimes an individual commits, a temptation of the individual’s family is to make money off the tragedy. And so it was with the Cunanans. Even MaryAnn. Dazed and confused, they were besieged to go public, wooed with bouquets and limousines by TV networks, hounded by tabloid reporters offering money, by producers ready to offer deals for putative books and TV movies, and by lawyers only too happy to act as their agents and to draft contracts signing over the family’s exclusive “life rights.” In this case those rights would be for stories of a son and a brother they no longer knew, the more sensational and sordid the better, from the media’s standpoint.

Although they had no communication with Andrew for nearly a decade, Elena and Christopher Cunanan, Andrew’s older sister and brother, had made a book deal and attempted to include their unpredictable mother in it. They will not speak for publication unless they are paid, and thus would not participate in this book. Shortly after Andrew’s death, MaryAnn began traveling with a lawyer, who could monitor her remarks. Her daughter Gina alone refused to sell her memories.

MaryAnn’s living room is furnished with four old wooden folding chairs, a worn metal desk chair, a sixties bamboo barrel chair with a faded pillow on it, a broken electric fan, and a new television set and tape deck. But the dominant feature is a shrine to Andrew, an altar on which she keeps a burning candle, family photos from happier times, cards people have sent her, pictures of saints, and a rosary blessed by the pope.

Despite being heavily medicated and having a tenuous hold on lucidity in conversations about her youngest child, MaryAnn has an alarming fierceness about her. And a defiance. She is Sicilian, she says, and proud to be “a peasant.” She went on Larry King Live to describe Andrew as “beautiful, intelligent, handsome, bright … gifted … I just want to remember the good things.” She has been under a psychiatrist’s care for years and receives medical disability payments from the government. More than once since Andrew’s death, she has attempted suicide. One minute she can be kind and accommodating, almost cloyingly so, the next she is snarling and bitter, giving a visitor the evil eye. “Do you know what mal occhio means? I’m giving it to you right now.” She contorts her face into a satanic mask. It’s scary. Her son Christopher described it to the San Diego Union-Tribune by saying, “She is very vulnerable and emotionally frail. Mentally she’s just not right.”

MaryAnn Schillaci was the child of immigrants. Her parents had come to Ohio from Palermo in 1928 and she boasts that her father was in the Mob. She calls herself a “menopause baby,” born late to her mother. Her father, she says, owned a barber shop and part of a bar. As a child she was doted on and overprotected, and she was happiest when her parents would put her up on a table to dance and perform. MaryAnn has come to believe that her parents’ age at her birth contributed to her being born with a “defect” and a “dark side” that she has to struggle to control. Like many children of immigrants, she did not speak English until she went to school, but once she starts talking she has few natural brakes. “Am I talking too much?” she will ask. “Should I take a pill? My husband used to hit me to get me to stop. He said he couldn’t think.”

Today, her life is full of strangers—FBI agents, lawyers promising deals, TV bookers, and friends of “Andrew DeSilva,” as Andrew called himself in local gay bars, which his mother sometimes visits. To all who will listen, MaryAnn Cunanan insists that her son was not responsible for the death of Gianni Versace. She declares that his murder spree was all a Mafia setup: “Andrew met Versace through S&M sex,” she says. But then the details get vague.

In her grief, MaryAnn has become Andrew’s protector and archivist. She has collected his clothes and his property and she gives his shirts away to people she likes. She excitedly declares that “Vanity Fair was Andrew’s favorite magazine,” then darts into her bedroom and emerges with the latest Vogue, a startling item given her surroundings. “I bought this because this is where Andrew purchased all his clothes from.” She means that he wore designer labels. In a curious way she is proud of his notoriety and wonders who should play Andrew in the movie. She says she had hoped her son Christopher would, “but he can’t act.” She is also thinking of former Olympic diver Greg Louganis.

Asked when she first realized Andrew was gay, she snaps, “From the time he was born, stupid.” A few minutes later she corrects herself, saying that she knew on his sixteenth birthday, by “the way he put on a pink sweater.” In fact, his homosexuality could never be broached at home. MaryAnn seems to acknowledge this chasm when she says, “You can pray all you want and say all the rosaries you want, but they all have free will. Just wait until your son is sixteen. As soon as they can drive, they no longer belong to you.”

For years, MaryAnn and her absent husband lived through their two youngest children, particularly Andrew, because they had “no emotional life together,” according to a neighbor. MaryAnn says, “Andrew was my marriage counselor. We would take walks around the block together and he would explain things to me.” Andrew became his parents’ confidant. Despite the bleakness of the union, MaryAnn emphasizes she has never divorced her husband. After giving unflattering portraits of several people close to her—always excluding Andrew—MaryAnn begins to tire. She disappears into the bedroom and returns wearing white pantyhose and a Sesame Street T-shirt with the puppet characters Bert and Ernie on the front. She is carrying a Bert doll.

Her medication is making her sleepy. She closes her eyes, but not before revealing, “I’m a Scorpio. I have a dark side, which I try to overcome with the good. I have a bad and a good, and the good overcomes the bad—if I wear my glasses. Where are my glasses?” She impatiently searches for a pair of iridescent blue sunglasses, finds them, and pops them on. “If I wear my glasses, then I’m good, because nobody can see me.”

Before her visitors go, MaryAnn wants snapshots taken. She imitates movie stars, posing with her hand on her hip, turning for a three-quarter view, throwing her head back over her shoulder. She demands, “Who am I? Don’t you remember Silvana Mangano? Don’t you remember Anna Magnani?” As she recalls these fifties and sixties Italian actresses, MaryAnn suddenly smolders with hostility. “I’m ugly but I’m the actress, right?” she implores. “Right?”

Then she announces that we must stand up, join hands with her in a circle, and sing along to “Everybody sing praise to the Lord, for He is wonderful.” MaryAnn makes everyone swing their arms up and down and step into the middle of the circle and back. “You’re not singing right,” she growls impatiently, asserting her control. “You’re moving your arms too fast!” With her cigarette clenched between her gums, MaryAnn dances in and out, in and out, and when she looks at a visitor her eyes are filled with hatred.

ANDREW PHILLIP, THE spoiled baby, was meant to fulfill the dreams of his mismatched parents. MaryAnn’s own mother had died when MaryAnn was nineteen, and the young girl moved to southern California to live with her older brother. She claims that his wife did not appreciate the affectionate hugs and kisses that the brother and sister, who had grown up in a warm, demonstrative family, be-stowed on each other. She knew she was not really welcome. She worked as a telephone operator and waitressed at a bar in Long Beach, a sailors’ town then, twenty-five miles southeast of Los Angeles. One night at the bar, in 1961, she looked up and her heart stopped. Pete Cunanan, eleven years older than her, had just swaggered in. “He was dressed in a white tuxedo, and I thought he looked like a Filipino Errol Flynn.”

Pete Cunanan knew he had a way with the ladies, and he and MaryAnn danced the night away. Pete was a career enlisted man who had joined the U.S. Navy “fresh off the banana boat” from his village of Baliuag, twenty-five miles from Manila, nearly a decade before. He had a booming voice and a knowing manner. He was a navy hospital corpsman and a striver, acutely aware of rank and gradations of status. To fortify his big dreams and limitless ambition, he was taking courses in financial management and later would go to school at night and eventually earn two master’s degrees, in business administration and health finance. He was proud of his military record. Pete believed in spit and polish—he wanted to be a big shot.

Short and powerfully built, he had a pencil-thin mustache and, later, a nail two inches long on one pinky finger. There were rumors that he was descended from a fierce warrior tribe and that he had been a fearless guerrilla fighter in World War II. Fun-loving MaryAnn, with dark hair, large eyes, and a piercing laugh, would stuff socks in her bra to make herself more sexy to him. Although she was promised to someone back home, and sent money to Ohio every week for her wedding, she was instantly attracted to Pete.

MaryAnn was six months pregnant when she and Pete got married. Their first child, Christopher, was born in August 1961. Pete was soon transferred to the U.S. Naval Hospital in St. Albans, New York, where MaryAnn gave birth to blond, blue-eyed Elena in 1963. In 1966 the family moved to Newport, Rhode Island, and when the Vietnam War began heating up, Pete became part of the First Hospital Company, First Marine Division. The Fleet Marines, who hit the beaches from naval ships, counted on the hospital to tend to their wounded. MaryAnn stayed behind with the two babies, but even before Pete left, their marriage was awash in acrimony.

Pete had become convinced that his wife was unfaithful to him. Today, he flat-out declares that “she is the mother of four; I am the father of three.” Andrew’s godfather, Delfin Labao, who comes from Pete’s town in the Philippines and is called Uncle Del by the Cunanan children, has known the couple from the beginning. He confirms Pete’s belief that Elena is not his daughter. Pete soon adopted an attitude of total disgust toward his wife. “He abused her so much,” says Labao. “It was a very sad marriage.”

Pete Cunanan denies that he was ever physically abusive but MaryAnn insists that he struck her and pulled her hair. Pete’s strong belief in her infidelity fueled an anger that convinced him he had license to behave as he wished. MaryAnn, never very stable, eventually became fragile and dependent, yet at the same time passive-aggressive and manipulative. Money was a constant source of friction.

MaryAnn would spend freely, and she was not above withholding sex as a way to get things out of her husband. “I used sex to get him to buy me dining room furniture,” she says. She indulged the kids with music lessons and toys. “She spent money like crazy,” Pete says. “I had three bank accounts, but only one with my home address. If she thought I was hiding money, she’d sulk all day long.” Her blithe attitude toward money, and Pete’s notions of grandeur, were a dangerous combination, not only for the household bank account but also for the children to observe. Meanwhile, MaryAnn continued to get pregnant.

In 1967, while Pete was with the Fleet Marines, the couple’s second daughter, Regina, was born. A few months before “Gina’s” birth in October, the Cunanans purchased their first house, for $12,500, in scruffy National City, San Diego’s outlying shipyard town. Squeezed between two freeways, the community was a far cry from the palatial setting Andrew would later brag about coming from. By the time Andrew made his arrival two years later, Pete had been transferred to the Naval Hospital in San Diego.

ANDREW’S BIRTH WAS not easy. Delfin Labao says that MaryAnn lost a lot of blood, and a few months later she suffered a postpartum depression so severe that she could not even comb her hair. She required hospitalization for three months and was unable to care for her baby. It was the first of several breakdowns. Pete says he tried to fill the breach, coping as best he could while caring for the infant, who almost never cried. The experience created an ineffable bond. “I raised that boy from the cradle,” Pete Cunanan says. “I changed his diapers and fed him his bottles.” Once, when Andrew was a baby, he burned his foot by stepping on a floor heater, but Pete scooped him up and kissed him and marveled that the child didn’t cry. From birth Andrew was his father’s clear favorite. To make ends meet with four young children and a wife disabled by mental illness, Pete took a second, part-time job as a lab technician.

Christopher and Elena, the two older children, were raised differently than Gina and Andrew. Their mother calls them “street kids.” They were not given the advantages that Gina and Andrew got. To all of his siblings, it must have appeared that Andrew was the favorite one. His brother called him “the white sheep.” While Christopher was left to shift more or less on his own, Elena, blond and beautiful, began to take dance lessons from a neighborhood lady known as “Granny Dancing,” and dancing became a big part of her life. Gina, also attractive but more cerebral and tomboyish, did not compete with her older sister. She grew up secretive and private. Andrew, from the beginning, was the adored little prince.

When Andrew was three, Pete retired from the navy with a full pension after twenty years as a chief petty officer. His dream was to become a stockbroker. While working as a lab technician, he continued to pursue his studies in business administration and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in 1976 and a master’s degree in business administration in 1977. “It was upward mobility from that point on!” Pete boasts. “Wherever there were rich people, that’s where you would find me!”

When Andrew was four, MaryAnn considered using the money she had recently inherited from her father to start a new life without Pete. Instead, with Pete cosigning, she bought a bigger house just a few miles east, in Bonita, for $96,000. The three-bedroom California ranch, in a middle-class neighborhood with good schools nearby, was a big step up.

BONITA, MEANING “PRETTY” in Spanish, was once the lemon capital of the world, a paradise of lemon groves and dairy farms. Its rock quarry provided stone for the fashionable Victorian Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, whose guests would take the train and spend the day picnicking at the site of Bonita’s Sweetwater Dam, once reputed to be the tallest in the world. In 1916 a flood broke one side of the dam after a prodigious rainstorm. The rains had supposedly been brought down by a professional cloud seeder, who became the inspiration for the Broadway play The Rainmaker. By the time the Cunanans bought there in the early seventies, the lemon groves had disappeared and the dairy farms were on their way out. Bonita was still, however, a horsey, countrified retreat with a mild climate in a lush valley surrounded by canyons overlooking the Pacific. Cookie-cutter tract developments were just beginning to cover the hillsides when the Cunanans moved to 5777 Watercrest Drive, the last house on the block at the bottom of a hill, across the street from a Little League baseball field.

The Cunanans’ house was standard-issue California ranch, but on the road above Watercrest were some very expensive homes with stables, where it still felt like the country. Many people who lived in Bonita were well off, and most residents sent their kids to public school. Because Bonita was surrounded by lower-income areas such as Chula Vista, however, and because the Mexican border was only ten miles away, there seemed to be a strong sense of pecking order in play there. Andrew’s parents were always careful to see that he had what the rich kids had.

Andrew was a handsome child with a precocious sparkle. When he was ready to enroll at Sunnyside Elementary, he was a comely combination of his parents, with skin that looked permanently tanned, thick dark eyebrows, and large hazel eyes. It was not immediately apparent that he was half Filipino, and in school he never said he was. He was extroverted and happy in Miss Bobbie Hatfield’s kindergarten. Although his parents believed he was a genius, Miss Hatfield, who has taught for over thirty years, did not find him exceptional. But it was enough that his parents did.

Part of the family lore that Andrew’s parents and siblings have told on television—apart from the fact that they considered themselves a normal and typical American middle-class family—is that Andrew had read the Bible by age seven and could memorize long passages of the encyclopedia. Reading, it seems, became his retreat early on. According to his father, Andrew would opt out of the flare-ups at home with a book. “Andrew had a way of defending himself. He’d put on a nice smile and walk away. He had this expression—‘Gosh, Mom. Gosh, Dad.’ He’d grab his encyclopedia, lie down on the bed, and read.”

Pete dealt with the misery of his marriage by staying out late and not being home very much. In 1979, when Andrew was ten, he began a training program to be a stockbroker with Merrill Lynch—a cause of great pride to him, which he communicated in no uncertain terms to his family. “Hey, I could talk—a man who is a stockbroker, with his social standing, his intelligence, and I’m not bad-looking either.” Pete was a strict disciplinarian, however, and everyone knew he was the boss. If the children were watching television, for example, and Pete came in, they would automatically vacate the room so that he could sit down and eat his dinner by himself on a small table in front of the set.

MaryAnn kept the house spotless per his orders—there were plastic runners on the carpets—and stayed home most of the time. She devoted herself to her kids, and when she was alone with them, things were often pretty happy if precarious: Too much pressure could trigger a breakdown. But the Cunanans did not socialize a lot and had little interaction with other people on the block. The neighbors considered MaryAnn nice but somewhat eccentric—with her hair pulled back in a tight bun, wearing layers of clothes even when it was hot, and apt to say the first thing that popped into her head in a childlike voice. She had trouble with her weight and would attempt various diet programs to reduce. Rarest of all in California, she did not drive the freeways but stayed on surface roads.

Most of the driving she did was to church and back. MaryAnn was a very religious Catholic who sent all of her children to Mass on Sundays as well as to catechism class. She hoped that someday Andrew would become a priest, another point of contention with his father. He did become an altar boy, and the trappings of the church, at least, seemed to exert a strong influence on him.

Given the almost perfect climate in Bonita, most kids lived outdoors year-round, riding bikes, playing kick the can, catching lizards in the nearby canyons, playing baseball. Not Andrew. He preferred to be indoors with his mother, reading the encyclopedia and watching TV. “He loved Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn,” MaryAnn says. Another favorite of his was Robin Williams’s TV sitcom Mork and Mindy. Andrew would recite Williams’s manic dialogue by heart. Andrew’s neighbor Scott Ulrich remembers once yelling for Andrew to come outside—they needed more kids for one of their games. Andrew came to the door, but his mother pulled him back. “You can’t do that,” she told him. “He was more of a loner,” says Ulrich. Charlie Thompson, another neighbor, calls Andrew “the epitome of a mama’s boy.”

Andrew’s relationship with his mother was complicated. Her personality was fragmented, and after having been used as a doormat by her husband for years, MaryAnn was both needy and smothering. She brags that when Andrew was a little boy they “were inseparable.” Since Andrew’s parents vied for his attention, MaryAnn’s closeness to Andrew infuriated Pete Cunanan. “You cannot cling like that to your son,” he says. “She suffocated him by his necktie. She clung to his belt loop. It was that kind of relationship—mothering in a different way.”

Perhaps MaryAnn thought the other neighborhood kids were too rough, but by keeping Andrew apart and to herself, to dress up and dote on, she was helping create a personality who began to see himself as superior, which his father encouraged. “The one impression I got from Andrew back then is he knew something good would happen to him. He knew he would turn out better than his peers, than everyone around him,” says Gary Bong, Andrew’s junior-high classmate. “This sense of superiority was his defining characteristic.”

Pete also lavished attention on Andrew. They had pet names for each other and baby-talked with each other even after Andrew was well into high school. Pete says they would refer to certain funny things as “coocoo or poopoo. He was more than a son to me. He was a friend. We’d kick tires together. We’d loaf around. I’d say, ‘Hey, kid, let’s go for an ice-cream ride.’ He learned very quick … Of course, the first thing I did with him is throw Amy Vanderbilt at him. I said, ‘I want you to memorize every fuckin’ period and comma in there.’ If you grow up in this society, you’ve got to give yourself a walking cane, to be a cut above the rest.”

“Of all the children Pete has, he put so much attention toward Andrew, maybe because he thought Andrew was so good-looking. It was not healthy,” says Delfin Labao. “His father spoiled Andrew, made him feel he’s got to be somebody, and maybe that rang a bell in his uncertain mind that that was what life was all about.” Pete was beginning his bumpy career as a stockbroker. After being so proud of his training by Merrill Lynch, he didn’t stay there. He left after two years to work for Prudential Bache. He lasted there only thirteen months before being “terminated for non-compliance,” meaning he was fired for breaking the rules. But no one would ever know that he was having problems from the way he treated his son.

On their ice-cream rides Pete would tutor Andrew on labels and image. “He knew I made some money. We’d stop by a store and I’d say, ‘You want those Ballys, those Johnston and Murphy shoes, a Cerutti jacket? Hey, you like the blazer?’ He’d say, ‘Gee, Dad, look at this one!’”

At an early age Andrew dressed in suits and preppy clothes, much more formally than most children his age. He liked to be noticed. “He was always a loud kid, very boisterous,” says Charlie Thompson. On the school bus, Andrew would speak in loud tones from the back so that the other kids would be forced to turn around and look at him. He was mimicking his father’s bravado, but that didn’t necessarily mean that he felt secure.

AT BONITA VISTA Junior High, which began with seventh grade and ended after ninth, Andrew became part of the MGM—mentally gifted minor—program. In order to qualify for the accelerated academic course, one’s IQ had to be at least 132. In the third grade at Sunnyside, Andrew’s IQ tested at 147.

Bonita, a sprawling hilltop structure with ten full basket-ball courts and three soccer and football fields, was socially very competitive. The elite of the school were divided into the “soshes,” or the social kids, and the “smacks,” the smart ones in the gifted program. Andrew was a smack, and a rather showy one. Pink and black were the big colors during Andrew’s years there, 1981–83, and students voted on who was best dressed. Andrew, perhaps taking his father’s and Amy Vanderbilt’s admonitions altogether too seriously, was beginning to define himself by cultivating an image of wealth and breeding. While most kids wore jeans, Andrew set himself apart by dressing in pressed khakis and Izod shirts. He wore an argyle vest and Sperry Top-Siders and put dimes in his penny loafers. His aim was to portray himself as a sophisticated, eastern, boarding-school student in an area where most kids considered Colorado “back East.”

By seventh grade Andrew had developed a line of patter and a penchant for telling stories based on what he had read, and embellished for effect. The disturbing grandiosity that would mark his personality had already begun to take hold. No one knew he was half Filipino, and he never befriended the other Filipino students. “He always wanted to be part of a richer crowd,” says classmate Gary Bong. “Andrew said he owned a lot of stock in junior high,” remembers Andreas Saucedo, now a stockbroker himself. “He said he owned Wrigley Chewing Gum and Coke. He was always saying, ‘My father did this and I’ve got stock in this.’ I thought to myself, God, I want stock!” The fact that Andrew’s parents never showed up at school and that almost no one was ever invited to his house shielded him. He would even often wait outside his house if he was being picked up. He clearly did not want his myth to be shattered.

A lot of Andrew’s classmates got a kick out of his ability to con them and to tell funny, colorful stories—he had picked up enough information from his reading to be able to make himself stand out in a crowd. Girls especially found it easy to talk to Andrew, because he was interested in celebrity and fashion. But Kristen Simer notes, “Even back then he was a pathological liar. We didn’t take him seriously.” And to some he seemed bizarre—flamboyant and stuffy at the same time. “In those days preppy meant sissy,” says Charlie Thompson. “People would whisper on the playground, ‘He’s a fag,’” says Lou “Jamie” Morris, who had known Andrew since first grade.

Andrew began to hang out with Peter Wilson, a pudgy only child who became his adoring sidekick. Together they memorized The Official Preppy Handbook, taking it more as the Bible than as satire. At Christmastime the two were driven to a local mall to shop, but they blew all their money on lunch in the Neiman Marcus shoppers’ dining room—in Andrew’s mind, the height of chic. Perhaps because MaryAnn was a good cook, Andrew, who later became a connoisseur of restaurants and a gourmet of sorts, showed an early interest in food as a manifestation of his snobbery. When Mrs. Wilson asked what she should serve for Peter’s Halloween birthday party in the eighth grade, Andrew floored her by suggesting cracked crab. “I was thinking pizza,” she said.

It was a costume party, and Andrew came as the Prince of Wales, dressed in a blue blazer with a crest and a silk ascot. He suggested to tall, pretty, blond Jennifer January, a friend from the MGM program, that she come as Princess Diana. The fact that Jennifer looked a great deal more like Diana than Andrew looked like Charles was of no matter—in Andrew’s mind he was a prince. “He put on an air—‘I’m royal.’ And he was. He carried it off,” says January. “I think he was looking for something a little better than what he came from.”

Andrew called Jennifer’s father, a retired navy pilot, to ask if he could take his daughter out to a lobster lunch. Her father refused. Not to be deterred, Andrew invited her to have the same lunch with him at school—clam chowder and lobster with rice and drawn butter from a nearby seafood restaurant. Jennifer was mortified that he offered this expensive spread to her in front of all the other kids, who were eating out of their brown bags. Worse still, Andrew’s mother delivered the meal. When Jennifer asked Andrew how he had gotten his mother to bring such an elaborate lunch to school, he said, “I told her to buy it and that it had to be here right on time.” Today January says, “I felt she was controlled by Andrew. There was never a question he ran the show.”

Sometimes Andrew’s instructions on what it took to become a worldly sophisticate grated on people’s nerves. At Lou Morris’s twelfth birthday party, Andrew complained that there was no Perrier to drink, only tap water, and he told the Morrises that the salad should be eaten after the meal. “That’s the European way,” he said. But, unlike his classmates, Andrew never reciprocated with parties of his own, and Morris, who knew Andrew from the fourth grade on, finally got fed up. He was sick of inviting Andrew to his house and never being invited back in return. Who was Andrew to put on airs? Morris was the one with the big house who was asked to the invitation-only Junior Assembly dances—not Andrew. “I always knew the family didn’t have as much money as he let on,” Morris recalls. “He would say he spent the summers in Europe. It was all lies.”

Morris says he could see that Andrew’s values were becoming distorted. “I stopped being friends because he’d be loud and obnoxious, and he became so materialistic and preppy. He put other people down.” Lou was shocked when he and Andrew were in the school yard one day and Andrew pointed across the hillsides to the dramatic canyons overlooking the Pacific. On clear days you could see north to downtown San Diego and south to Mexico. “If someone were smart, they’d put condominiums up on all those hills,” Andrew said. “You could make a lot of money.” Lou was appalled. Those were the cherished open spaces they had grown up with, and every day developers were threatening to encroach. Why would anyone want to spoil such pristine beauty? (Since then Andrew’s vision has come true: There are identical tract houses all over those canyons.)

The Great Gatsby