Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Andrew Cunanan: After Me, Disaster

Without Definition

"What is utterly absurd happens in this world."

— Nikolai Gogol

Good looking, suave, erudite and glib, Andrew Cunanan possessed what it took to own the world as his own at a very early age. By the time he was 21 years old, his brilliant mind had captured the fluency of seven languages and the essence of conversation in a circle of friends much older than he. More, he could recite the encyclopedia of designer labels, outwit the most clever of society sophisticates, and steal the attention of a room with a nod of his devil-may-care nonchalance. He was gay and proud of it, and his attitude shrugged off those who didn’t understand his sexual preference. Nothing seemed to bother Andrew Cunanan. Nothing.

But, underneath, waiting to explode, hell smoldered. And when it burst it spewed blood from the corners of a Pompeiian decadency that was his brain. In its wake were the small and the mighty, the lava of hot blood burning several, from a tranquil grounds-keeper to the world’s top fashion designer.

Wanted Poster (FBI)
Wanted Poster (FBI)
  Because of Andrew’s surface normality, when his inner Vesuvius did erupt the police had little to fall back on to find him and stop him before he killed again. Their crime labs possessed no fingerprints of him; he had never been arrested; had always fit into the everyday "good citizen" boundaries. His crimes were against the society norm, as it were, and not the landscape of ordained civil law. Pornographic, sometimes brutally so, his immoral world fed its sexual lust that catered to his own appetite and to that of willing partners within a leather-wearing sadomasochistic cabal. But, under the sunlight of an everyday john q. public existence, he had offended no one.

"For two decades, we have been deluged with narratives about serial killers...which invariably lay out the full pathology of a given miscreant and assure us that there are ‘signs to watch for,’ that if we only paid attention in the early stages, society could prevent serial murders and related unpleasantness," writes Gary Indiana in Three Month Fever. "Interestingly, Cunanan didn’t experience the early traumas or manifest the egregious childhood behavior that experts tag as typical of the serial killer. More interestingly, in adult life, he did have enough of a screw loose that plenty of people noticed it, and often found it amusing."

Andrew’s early years were not domestically happy, but not bloated with the usual bad-life, sociopathic elements of other to-be killers. Home life teetered between pleasing a doting and very religious, perhaps too-naive, mother and accepting the demands of a prestige-conscious father. The latter was a disciplinarian, but not a sadist. There were scenes of violence that occasionally erupted; enough perhaps to turn Andrew away from his family.

In social life, Andrew enjoyed the company of friends who regarded him as colorful, no more than a happy clown. He had a 147 IQ that showed itself in his behavior, so his whimsies were always regarded as restless results of a smart-ass kid always one step ahead. When he graduated from high school, the outgoing seniors were asked to describe themselves in a single quote for the yearbook. Andrew chose one that might have had in it a warning, but, as usual, made his peers — probably even himself — laugh. It was viewed as a typical Andrew Cunanan stunt. His quote was one attributed to King Louis XV: "Apres moi, le deluge." "After me, disaster."

Prize-winning journalist Maureen Orth, who followed the Cunanan killing spree through its trauma, attributes Cunanan’s own inner passion and self-indulgence as his downfall. "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," says she in Vulgar Favors. "Lurking just beneath the charm 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 circles of gay life today — but not spoken of."

The disaster that cometh which Cunanan may have joked about at 18 years old would indeed come. The deluge leaned, in the meantime, on a visible dam of a pretty face and a winning personality. Because he left no diary behind, no explanatory notes, one can only guess when the dam really broke and what caused it to break.

Perhaps it had been trickling for years.


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