Gianni Versace's killer Andrew Cunanan easily evaded the FBI who failed to spot the clues he left behind
Andrew Cunanan went into hiding for eight days after he murdered Gianni Versace. Later, his body was found in a houseboat in Miami with the same gun that was used to shoot his first victim.
FX's The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story Season 2 has renewed interest in the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace who was fatally shot on 15th July 1997. The designer was on his way home from a visit to a nearby cafe when 27-year-old Andrew Cunanan fired at him killing both the designer and a pigeon next to him.
That Versace was killed became a high profile case for the FBI. He was, at the time, one of the most famous designers who dressed celebrities, Princess Diana, and supermodels. During the investigation, the police found a pickup truck close to Versace's mansion which led them to receipts from a gold pawn shop. Cunanan had exchanged a gold coin there and gave his real identity as proof. The police was soon on the lookout for Cunanan, who was already on the FBI's most wanted list for four other murders.
Nevertheless, their manhunt ended eight days after Versace's death. Cunanan was found dead in a houseboat just 40 blocks away from Versace's home in Miami, Florida. The police said Cunanan had shot himself in the head and met the same fate as his victims. But the FBI could have prevented Cunanan from carrying out further murders after the very first one which occurred on April 15, 1997.
Cunanan, a homosexual with a genius level IQ, according to Vanity Fair, killed his former boyfriend Jeffrey Trail a few months before he killed Versace. The 28-year-old former naval officer met Cunanan in San Diego and had moved to Minneapolis in 1996 and grew increasingly scared for his life.
Trail even bought a .40 caliber gun to protect himself from possible threats. According to reports, the serial killer murdered Trail with a claw hammer at his boyfriend David Madson's house. Later, he rolled up the dead body in a rug and hid it in Madson's closet.
His next murder occurred in the next few days. Madson's colleagues reported to the police when he had missed work for two days. According to Harper's Bazaar, the authorities broke into Madson's house and found Trail's body. They also found a gym bag with Cunanan's name on it and a box of bullets for .40 caliber gun.
According to Vanity Fair, the police also found Cunanan's toiletries and a pair of bloody jeans sized 36, which was way too large for Madson. However, they suspected Madson to be the killer, who was reported "missing" at that point.
A few days later, the police found Madson's body near a lake with gunshots to his head with bullets from a .40 caliber gun. By then, Cunanan drove Madson's stolen Jeep to see another sugar daddy, Lee Miglin in Chicago. DNA results later showed that Andrew had bathed and eaten at Miglin's home and stole his car which had a built-in telephone. The FBI could finally trace Cunanan but that was until he stole another car.
Cunanan, upon finding the authorities were on the lookout for him, found cemetery caretaker William Reese in New Jersey and shot him in the head. He then drove this red pick up truck to Miami in May and killed Versace two months later.
Although the police had all the evidence which pointed to Cunanan as the killer of four people, they failed to find him right after he killed Reese in New Jersey. At the time, there weren't computerized systems that performed matching thumbprints; an officer had to perform them manually. And that officer was on vacation in the week that Cunanan committed the murders."It's not like the detective planned on being on vacation, but it's just insane when you think about how it all ties together," Phang added.
According to reports, Cunanan was living in plain sight in Miami and hung out at gay nightclubs. Cunanan was openly gay and worked as an escort but his sexuality wasn't a point of focus for the FBI.
Miami-based attorney Katie Phang, a seasoned legal contributor to NBC and MSNBC, told Town and Country, "I don't think the gay link was focused on early enough by law enforcement. They were probably looking at the case in too much of an isolated view." If law enforcement authorities displayed wanted posters at gay clubs, which he was known to frequent, they could have found clues."
That the FBI didn't link the murders to Cunanan's sexuality blindsided them and for a while, they viewed Versace's death as a possible result of his links to a mafia gang. Authorities explored this link further because a dead bird was "the calling card of some mafia groups," according to Town and Country.
Can't stop thinking about tonight's #ACSVersace my heart hurts for all the people who had thier lives destroyed by Andrew Cunanan. I am also sorry you are having to relive this.— Sabrina Nicole (@sabrinanicole22) February 8, 2018
"There are certain things that law enforcement overlooked that would have linked Andrew Cunanan sooner to the crimes. It was almost like the perfect storm of failures and missteps and oversights that aided Cunanan in evading any identification or capture in Miami," Phang added.
Until now, it's not clear why Cunanan killed five people before he shot himself. However, his reason for being possibly jilted by Trail, Miglin and Versace may have been a contributing factor. His boyfriend Madson and the cemetery caretaker became mere casualties during his killing spree.
If you have any views or stories that you would like to share with us, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org