While the current season of American Crime story may bear the name of the late fashion designer, real star of The Assassination of Gianni Versace is his killer, Andrew Cunanan. The serial killer, who murdered five people across four states before taking his life in Miami in 1997, continues to be an enigma of sorts over two decades after the murders, as authorities have never been able to uncover any clear motives for his crimes.
But while the Cunanan killings continue to be full of mystery, American Crime Story is attempting to piece together a narrative of what may have happened between Cunanan and his victims. Much like the third episode of ACS was devoid of the Versace family, instead focusing on Cunanan’s killing of Chicago businessman Lee Miglin, the fourth episode, takes us back even further to Cunanan’s first two murders.
In April 1997, Cunanan traveled to Minneapolis to visit friend Jeffrey Trail and former boyfriend David Madson, both of whom were living in Minnesota. But while the two, who were acquainted but reportedly not secret lovers, as ACS depict, agreed to spend time with Cunanan, who was reportedly staying with Madson, neither were thrilled to see him.
The murders of Trail and Madson were exceedingly brutal. Trail was bludgeoned to death by Cunanan in Madson’s home, leading police to initially suspect Madson of being an accomplice in the crime. But his body was found days later, and he’d been shot in the head multiple times using Trail’s gun.
After Madson’s death, friends told reporters that despite their break-up Cunanan continued to obsess over Madson, believing him to be the love of his life. The two met in late 1995 and dated for about six months, but Madson ended things after becoming uneasy about Cunanan’s continuing unpredictability. But despite their breakup, and Madson’s wariness towards Cunanan, the two kept in touch.
So why did Cunanan kill Madson if he was still in love with him? In the wake of the killings, one of the most popular narratives surrounding Cunanan’s murder spree was that he believed he was HIV positive and sought out to kill the people he thought may have given it to him. While Cunanan was not HIV positive, something confirmed by an autopsy, a 2001 Time article reveals that the killer may have thought otherwise. In the article, a San Diego AIDS counselor named Mike Dudley revealed that Cunanan had approached him and asked a number of questions about AIDS. Dudley also stated that Cunanan had told him, “If I find out who did this to me, I’m gonna get them!”
While Cunanan didn’t actually have HIV, we’ll never quite know if his belief caused his killing spree. In ACS, the murders of Trail and Madson stem from an unravelling Cunanan’s jealousy over the pair’s secret love. After murdering Trail, Cunanan tells Madson that he’ll also be a suspect in the killings and essentially kidnaps his former boyfriend, trying to convince him of their future together, before ultimately killing him.