Who Was Andrew Cunanan’s Father? ‘The Assassination Of Gianni Versace’ Dramatizes An Unusual Childhood
The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story already provided some insight into Andrew Cunanan's mother, but the episode "Creator/Destroyer" explores his relationship with his other parent. Andrew Cunanan's father shows up on American Crime Story for the first time in the penultimate episode on March 14. Modesto "Pete" Cunanan is portrayed by Miss Saigon star Jon Jon Briones in The Assassination Of Gianni Versace and it seems that on the show and in real life, Modesto helped to give Andrew his sense of entitlement.
As Darren Criss' Andrew told Gianni Versace in the first episode of The Assassination Of Gianni Versace, his father is from the Philippines. But the other details Andrew gave to Versace — that his father owned a pineapple plantation, was a pilot for Imelda Marcos, and left his mother for a man — appear to have no basis in reality. Yes, Modesto was a "military man" who left Andrew's mom MaryAnn, but he was not an international entrepreneur as Andrew paints him. As Vulture noted in its fact-checking of the first episode, "In truth, his father was living far from luxury in the Philippines." So just like Andrew Cunanan does with himself in American Crime Story, he tells lavish lies about his father.
As ABC News reported, Modesto was a Navy veteran and a stockbroker. With his wife MaryAnn, he raised Andrew and Andrew's three older siblings in southern California. ABC News noted that in an interview with Diane Sawyer in 1997, two of Andrew's siblings said that Modesto gave their little brother special treatment. "He was my father's pride and joy," Andrew's brother Christopher told Sawyer. Andrew's sister Elena added, "My dad gave him a sports car. He had the master bedroom. He had his own bath and everything." So while the stories Andrew told David Madson about his childhood in the sixth episode "Descent" may have sounded like lies, his parents apparently truly did give him the master bedroom in their family home.
Also in "Descent," Andrew said that his father worked for Merrill Lynch and "when he left them, he returned to the Philippines to run vast pineapple plantations." While there's no official confirmation that a Modesto Cunanan worked for Merrill Lynch in the '80s, American Crime Story will show him working at the company. Yet, the idea that Andrew's father left his stockbroker job for lucrative opportunities in the Philippines is not true. As The New York Times reported in July 1997, Modesto left the U.S. and returned to the Philippines when he was suspected of fraud. ABC News reported that Andrew was 19 years old at the time.
The head of the homicide unit of the San Diego Police Department told The New York Times that they couldn't find criminal charges filed against Modesto. But MaryAnn sought legal separation from her husband and the court papers "assert that he left his family destitute and homeless, with just $3,000 from the sale of their house." Maureen Orth, who wrote Vulgar Favors — the book that The Assassination Of Gianni Versace is based on, also referenced MaryAnn's lawsuit in a 1997 Vanity Fair article on Andrew. Orth wrote that the lawsuit accused Modesto of embezzling more than $100,000 and that he had abandoned the family in 1988. Orth also noted in Vulgar Favors that MaryAnn claimed that her husband physically abused her.
Before Modesto went back to the Philippines, Cunanan started attending the University of California San Diego. But The New York Times reported that after his father fled the U.S., Andrew dropped out and went to live with Modesto in the Philippines. His mother's suit claimed that Andrew returned home because of Modesto's "squalid living conditions." The San Diego Union-Tribune confirmed that Andrew followed his dad to the Philippines and that he only stayed there for about a month.
Orth reported that, after leaving his family, Modesto had joined a "survivalist cult" and had been looking for gold that he believed the Japanese had left during WWII. The Chicago Tribune reported that after Andrew killed himself while on the run after Versace's murder on July 23, 1997, Modesto fled his home, which was located about an hour north of the Filipino capital of Manila. He had left a note on his door that read, "My son was an altar boy. He is not a serial killer or a homosexual."
About two months later, the Los Angeles Times reported that Modesto had come to Los Angeles to make a documentary about his son and was trying to be named the executor of Andrew's estate. He also claimed his son was innocent and that Andrew was the victim of a "deep cover-up." As The Washington Post noted, Andrew's mother MaryAnn appeared on Hard Copy in August 1997 and also voiced theories about her son's innocence.
So perhaps the only true thing that Andrew (unintentionally) expressed to Versace in that early American Crime Story scene was resentment toward his father for leaving his family. And The Assassination Of Gianni Versace will examine this complicated father-son relationship further in "Creator/Destroyer" in an effort to understand why Cunanan allegedly committed those horrific murders.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.