After a four- hour siege by a SWAT team , Andrew Cunanan, one of FBI's most wanted men in America, was found dead in the upstairs bedroom of a Miami Florida house boat eight days after the culimination of a killing spree that took that claimed the lives of five men, including Italian designer Gianni Versace. Identified by thumbprints the cause of his death was a self inflicted gun shot. The boat's caretaker told police he saw a stranger aboard and heard a shot fired. The house boat was located 2 1/2 miles north of Versace's mansion. A mile from the hotel where Cunanan stayed for two months before the slaying.
Andrew Phillip Cunanan was born on August 31, 1969 his father, in the Philippines, denies his son's homosexuality, saying he was "an altar boy" with a good Catholic upbringing. His mother referred to him as a "high-class homosexual prostitute." In high school he was openly gay. His friends said he was a toy for old, wealthy men.
He graduated from The Bishop's School in La Jolla, California, in 1987. Acquaintances say Cunanan a was soft-spoken intellectual, fluent in several languages and well versed in world affairs. He was handsome, outgoing, lavish, and ostentatious. At parties he craved attention. He socialied with the elite though he had no money.
Friends said he changed the last six months he was in San Diego. Some friends felt he had some sort of break down after being rejected by his lover and his best friend. His friends attended an extravagant going away party for him in April at California Cuisinewhen he said he was moving to San Francisco. He didn't go to San Francisco, though. He bought a one-way ticket to Minneapolis, where he stayed with a former lover, David Madson, 33. He arranged a fling with an old friend, Jeffrey Trail.
His friend Jeffrey Trail was his first murder in a three-month killing spree beginning April 27, 1997, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Trail's body, with his head bashed in, was found wrapped in a rug in Madson's loft on April 29th. The second victim, architect Jeff Madson, was killed May 2, 1997. His body, with a single shot to the head, was found four days later about 60 miles north of Minneapolis. Cunanan then drove to Chicago to kill Lee Miglin, 72, a real-estate developer, with a saw blade and pruning shears on May 4. The fourth victim, William Reese, 45, a cemetery caretaker, was killed for his car on May 9, 1997. Reese was killed by a single shot to the head with a .40-caliber Taurus. He hid in Miami Beach, Florida, for months before the fifth murder. July 15, 1997, Andrew Cunanan a 27-year-old multi-murderer shot and killed Gianni Versace on his front steps in Miami Beach, Florida, U.S as he was returning home after a morning walk.
According to Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI special agent:
"Short of leaving his name signed on the pavement in front of Gianni's house, there's not much else he could do to say, 'Look at me. I'm the one that did this.'"
In Los Angeles, police released a videotaped statement by Elizabeth Cote, a friend of Cunanan's:
"These past few months, you have been portrayed as a horrible and despicable person. But I just want you to know that I remember and I know who you really are, and I love you unconditionally. The Andrew Cunanan I know is not a violent person. The Andrew Cunanan who is the godfather to my children is not a thief. The Andrew Cunanan I know is close to God and knows that whatever has happened, He will always forgive ... stop what you are doing ... contact an attorney or the police ... "
FBI warned two wealthy socialites, Harry de Wildt and oil heir Gordon Getty that they were mentioned by friends of Cunanan. de Wildt said.
"It seems that Gordon and I are two of his biggest idols here in San Francisco. Apparently he admired our lifestyles, much like he admired Gianni Versace for his success. So there's a lunatic somewhere in the world, I'm not nervous."
There was speculation that Cunanan's was HIV positive; but his autopsy found him HIV-negative.
PETA vice president, Dan Matthews, actually praised Cunanan for murdering Versace in Genre magazine, with the sick statement, "he finally got Versace to stop using furs"
At the time of his death, many believed the Italian fashion designer known for his daring fashions and glamorous lifestyle was at a peak.
Born December 2, 1946, in Reggio Calabria, his mother was a dressmaker, and Gianni was raised watching her work on designs in her boutique. After graduating from high school, Versace worked for a short time at his mother's shop before moving in 1972 to Milan, where he worked for several Italian ateliers, including Genny, Complice, Mario Valentino, and Callaghan. Backed by the Girombellis, an Italian fashion family, Versace established his own company, Gianni Versace SpA, in 1978 and staged his first ready-to-wear show under his own name that same year.
His brother, Santo, served as CEO, and his sister, Donatella, was a designer and vice president. Versace designed throughout the 1980s and '90s and built a fashion empire by producing ensembles that oozed sensuality and sexuality. His most famous designs included sophisticated bondage gear, polyvinyl chloride baby-doll dresses, and silver-mesh togas. Versace's detractors considered his flashy designs vulgar. Unfazed by such criticism, Versace staged his seasonal fashion shows like rock concerts at his lavish design headquarters in Milan, with groupies and paparazzi awaiting the arrival of both his celebrity friends, such as Elton John and Madonna, and his loyal models, such as Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell, who were paid such high salaries that the press dubbed them “supermodels.”
Versace was credited with turning the fashion world into the high-powered, celebrity-besotted industry it remains to the present day. As his success continued to grow, Versace began establishing boutiques throughout the United States with the help of his family. He also focused on publishing a series of coffee-table books that featured his sketches and photographs of his creations by esteemed photographers such as Richard Avedon , who also worked on Versace's advertising campaigns.
Versace's interest in the new and daring continued to flourish, and in 1989 he designed a line of haute couture for the first time. Also in 1989 he created costumes for the San Francisco Opera; a great enthusiast of the opera and ballet, Versace explored costume design as a side interest throughout his career. In 1993 Versace was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the inner ear. He battled this cancer successfully and then began to pass much of his business responsibilities onto his family.
His company had expanded to produce clothing for men, women, and children, as well as handbags, precious jewelry, perfume, and items for the home. Versace's work was honoured by a posthumous retrospective held from December 1997 to March 1998 at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. After his death his sister took over as head designer for the Versace label.
Seeing Cunanan for Who He Really Was
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"Gianni Versace." Encyclopędia Britannica . 2004. Encyclopędia Britannica Premium Service.
23 Feb. 2004 http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=370246
Copyright Kari Sable 1994-2006