The murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace plays out like a made-for-TV movie, but the details of the case are even stranger and more jarring than the stuff written for the screen.
Last Day In The Life
July 15 was bright and clear in South Beach, Miami, Florida. It was 1997, and it was the perfect place for any fashion icon. The city, famed for its nightlife, was full of models, actors, and fashion insiders. At the center of it all was famous celebrity fashion designer, Gianni Versace.
He was up early that day, making calls to fashion mecca, Milan, and getting some work done. Later in the morning, he headed to the News Cafe. It was three blocks from his spectacular Miami villa, and he was a regular there.
Versace got copies of Vogue and The New Yorker, ordered a cup of coffee, and walked back home. He went up the marble steps, put his key in the lock of the iron gate and that’s when it happened.
A man in a baseball cap ran up the stairs and shot Versace twice. As if nothing unusual had happened, he casually strolled away from the scene of the crime.
Police thought at first that the murder was a mob hit. Not only had Versace been killed at point-blank range, but there was a dead bird next to him. But the bird was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, hit by a bullet fragment. This time the “red herring” was a bird.
It was actually a friend of Versace’s who led police to one of the FBI’s most wanted killers. Lazaro Quntana followed the killer after the murder. Police joined him on the chase, and they found clothing and the stolen pick-up truck. Finally, they had a name for their killer. It took 9 more days for police to find the killer himself.
Versace had just become the fifth known victim of serial killer, Andrew Cunanan. He was on a three-month killing spree that morning in Miami, already on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.
Cunanan spent two months in Miami before killing Versace, going to clubs and bars at night. Despite being on the Most Wanted list, he seemed to make little effort to hide or stay under the radar.
Cunanan was educated in private school and lived with his mother and father in San Diego as a boy. He was openly gay and usually passed himself off as being rich, though his family was actually middle class.
His murders began suddenly and violently, shortly after a 1996 break up with one of his wealthy older boyfriends.
In April 1997, he killed two people in Minneapolis he knew personally, one a former boyfriend. The next week, he killed a 72-year-old man in Chicago. There is evidence that Cunanan tortured this victim, though there is no evidence he knew the victim. After the manhunt for him began across the nation, Cunanan killed a cemetery caretaker in New Jersey. This was probably a murder of convenience, Cunanan stole the man’s pickup truck.
In May, he went to Miami. And in July, he made it into the history books.
Funeral For A Fashion King
The world was stunned by the news that the fashion legend was killed in cold blood. Princess Diana, Elton John, and Sting were among the 2,000 mourners who attended his funeral.
The day after the funeral, Andrew Cunanan killed himself inside a houseboat that he had broken into. He did not leave a suicide note or any other information about why he committed his crimes. Just blocks from the gorgeous villa that once housed the fashion legend he killed, Cunanan turned the same gun on himself that he used for the famous murder.
Cunanan’s entire life has been examined and practically everyone who ever knew him has been questioned in an effort to find answers to his horrific murders. But there is nothing to indicate when or how he became a monster.
The truth of what this serial killer thought and why he did what he did will remain a mystery. Cunanan took all the answers with him to the grave.