Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Andrew Cunanan: After Me, Disaster


"No question is ever settled

Until it is settled right."

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Andrew Cunanan died leaving behind an unearthly, uneasy silence. Like a nightmare too real to fade with the dawn, his death produced no hallelujahs, no heroes and definitely no wisdom. Sometimes the causes of nightmares can be traced; usually they are. But, what motivated the hellish dreams of Andrew Phillip Cunanan? Did even he know?

The book Death at Every Stop, by Wesley Clarkson, concludes with an excellent summary, citing the views of psychiatrists and criminologists, of what might have triggered Cunanan. Many of them agree that he does not fit into the standard "spree killer" or "serial killer" cone. Following are some of their remarks that not only examine a possible motive but help illuminate the psyche that was Andrew Cunanan.

  • VernonGeberth, author of Practical Homicide Investigation, the textbook for homicide detectives:

"If you take a look at the dynamics of the killing of (Versace), he was basically killing the person that he could never be...A lot of folks who do this feel a sense of superiority over the police. The police were basically impotent to him. By doing this, he not only got to validate his own superiority, he got to make a statement."

  • Eric Hickey, professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno:

"He thought he was immune or impervious to capture. Most serial killers are much more discrete, careful to hide the bodies. He was kind of like the Unabomber, who kept sending out more letters."

  • Jack Levin, professor of criminology at Northeastern University, Boston:

"As a rule, serial killers dont go after celebrities. Most serial killers target prostitutes and street people and old women living alone or small children safe, conventional targets. Most serial killers would never use a firearm."

  • Dr. Helen Morrison, a leading forensic psychiatrist:

"We are faced with a brand new type of murderer and that is one reason why there are so many unanswered questions. There is no comparison between Cunanan and any other model we have. He is not a serial killer, not a spree killer, and certainly not a mass killer...If someone doesnt fit, then maybe we should start getting rid of the boxes."

  • Richard Ressler, FBI agent and serial killer expert:

"He had relationships with several young men and one left him. He was having financial problems. All of these dynamics were pulling on this guy. Being self-centered and narcissistic, these had a special stress. And I suspect this guy probably had contracted AIDS."

  • Paul Salkin, psychiatrist:

"He was a complete chameleon...a multiple personality. He certainly had multiple appearances."

All these are, of course, professional conjectures. The experts do not claim the final word. The legacy that Andrew Cunanan left is bloody and bitter and tells us that nightmares live among us. Probably the best description of Andrew, apart from the deep-rooted Freudianisms, comes from Thomas Epach, chief of criminal prosecutions for Cook County, Illinois. Says he: "(He) was like watching a weather map. This killer was the consummate criminal storm."



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