December 2, 1946 – July 15, 1997
“I am not interested in the past, except as the road to the future.”
August 31, 1969 – July 24, 1997
There is way too much of this story for me. It’s extremely complicated, so I’m going to skip a lot of the details about the “case,” and deal just with the Findadeath.com type details. I hope you don’t mind. By the way, I owe a debt of gratitude to Findadeath.com friends Jo, Kevin and Katie, for their help in acquiring photographs of the murder scene.
A little background – Cunanan lived in San Diego, in the Hillcrest district.
He used to work in the California Cuisine on University Avenue,
and his favorite bar to imbibe was called Flicks, just up the road.
I thank Findadeath.com friend, James Hickok, for those photos. James bought the purchase of a lifetime, when he found an autographed copy of “Coroner”, by Thomas Noguchi, in a thrift store for 3 bucks. Lucky guy. Thanks James.
At 8:45am, on July 15th, 1997, Gianni Versace was returning home from a short walk to the News Café, where he purchased magazines.
He was wearing shorts with $1,200.00 in the pocket (as you do), sandals and a dark colored shirt. His house is located at 1116 Ocean Avenue, in South Beach, Miami.
He walked up the steps to the front gate,
he put the key in and was about to turn it, when cutie pie killer Andrew Cunanan approached him. Versace was shot twice – once, point blank in the center of his face, the other in his neck. He fell to the steps, and landed on his right side.
APRIL 2000: My friends David and Nigel took this picture of the house.
Witnesses saw Cunanan leaving the scene, and walking like a duck. No really, that’s what they said. He took off down an alley. People were chasing him, trying to stop him, but when they noticed he had a gun in his hand, well, they thought better, and let him go. Versace’s chef Charles Podesta called 911. The 911 operator could hear Podesta over a woman’s screams in the background. He said that he heard 2 or 3 popping sounds, went outside, and found the designer in a pool of blood. At one point, the dispatcher asked if Versace was breathing. “We don’t know – he’s not moving.” Two and a half minutes on, Podesta asked the operator, “Why aren’t they here yet? My God, we’re only a minute or two away.” The dispatcher tried to calm him down, and less than 30 seconds later, sirens could be heard.
I received an email in January 2002, from a person that worked in the Versace house. His words, “interesting reading and fairly accurate too…..
I was employed by Gianni Versace at the time of his death and was present at the time of his death. It was in fact me who was the first person to find him on the steps as Charles Podesta, the chef I employed, was in the kitchen at the time ….”
I asked this individual who worked for Versace, if he would answer a few questions for me. With the condition that he remain nameless, he agreed.:
Q: Do you know which magazines Gianni bought that day?
A: Vogue, People and others I do not recall.
Q: How long was he lying there until he was finally removed?
A: Thankfully, not long. Approximately 20 minutes, hence there were no photos as it was still only between 8:35 and 9 a.m. on a quiet morning.
Q: Was Gianni laid out at any time?
A: Yes, on the 16th at a Jewish funeral place home up north from the beach. It was attended by Donatella, Santo, Antonio, Emmanuela, Lazaro, Myself, Sergio and possibly Melissa.
Q: Open casket?
Q: Who took his ashes to Milan?
A: His sister.
Q: Was there a grave side service?
A: There was the big service in Milan.
Q: Did you know Caroline Bessette Kennedy?
A: No, met her briefly once in professional capacity.
Q: Was she a bitch, like I think she was?
A: Can not make an opinion – see previous answer.
Q: Were you annoyed with Elton’s display at the funeral?
A: Absolutely not – they were the closest of friends. Real friends not showbiz companions…
Q: Did you run the household?
A: Yes from July 1995 to January 1998, when I finally left Miami.
Q: Is the house now a hotel?
A: Talk that it may become expensive B & B. The family no longer own it
Q: Do you live in the area still?
A: No, after moving back to New York, I am now in London.
It was me who removed his house keys from the gates. it was Lazaro and myself who were first out onto the steps, followed closely by Antonio. Lazaro gave chase as we both saw Cunanan walking away and then begin to run. I stayed with Gianni and Antonio, Charles came out and I directed him to call the emergency services. He was dead immediately. He would have felt nothing.
Q: Most importantly, do you know the connection between Gianni and the psycho?
A: Lots of theories abound. Cunanan had never been in the house, and they were not friends. He had never worked for the company. If by pure chance they had met at a party somewhere it was merely someone introducing him to Gianni who being an extremely polite and approachable man would have said hello. no more no less…..
Another thing that annoyed me was The News Cafe saying Gianni went every morning to get papers and have a coffee there – Firstly he did not drink coffee and secondly the papers/magazines were usually collected by Arthur…. it was just a beautiful morning and he was in high spirits so he decided to go himself ……
Thank you for your time, and your information.
When police arrived, they noticed that Versace had “one or more” wounds to his head, but there was still “cardiac activity.” He was taken to the hospital.
A friend – ex employee of St. Patrick’s R.C. Parish, Miami Beach tells me that he was taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center, in Miami Beach.
He died shortly thereafter. He was 50 years old.
Police described the crime scene:
A pair of black sandals are arrayed on the lowest step. The southern most being approximately 8 north of the southern end of the step and the other being an additional 5 feet further north. Pooling of blood and some possible brain matter is noted on step 1, 2 and 3.
I don’t know if this is true or not, but Findadeath.com friend, David Johnson, wrote me to tell me, “Did you know that someone ripped Versace ad’s out of a magazine/s and started mopping up his blood to keep as a souvenir? I think even you would have drawn a line.” He’s right. I don’t know what makes what I do okay, and what they did awful – but there is a definite line being crossed there. Now, if I were to have stumbled onto a sandal…
On the walkway area at the gate level, in the open gateway is a paper bag containing magazines and to the north of it within 1 foot, a pair of sunglasses with black frames. Gianni’s keys were still in the gate, and someone from the house removed them.
Police also found two .40 silver colored expended casings located nearby. Now here’s a weird fact I didn’t know. “Between the two casings in the street with its head oriented north and in a supine position, is the body of a dead mourning dove. Blood coming from a wound in the doves head, appears to be of the same temporal freshness of the victim. Weird, huh?
The news media arrived shortly thereafter.
A HUGE manhunt began for Andrew Cunanan. The Wanted Posters even made it to Detroit. Here’s mine.
In the meantime, on Thursday July 17th Versace was cremated.
There was a memorial service held for Gianni at St. Patrick’s Church in Miami Beach. Hundreds of friends and well wishers came to pay their last respects. On July 18th, Versace’s ashes were flown to Bergamo, Italy, and were taken to the lakeside town of Como, where Versace had a villa. His family held a private service there.
The real humdinger funeral was held in Milan, on Tuesday the 24th, at the Roman Catholic Cathedral. This was an A-list event. Guests included Princess Diana, Elton John and his boyfriend David Furnish, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, Naomi Campbell, Luciano Pavorotti, Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld. Sting and Elton sang the 23rd Psalm. It doesn’t get any starrier than that.
Back in Miami, the hunt for Cunanan was whipping up into frenzy. On July 23, Fernando Carreira walked into a two-level houseboat
at 5250 Collins Ave, about 2 1/2 miles north of Versace’s villa. Carreira, 74, was being paid by the boat’s owner to keep an eye on it, and he went in with gun drawn after noticing a jimmied lock.
JUNE 2000 – this in from Findadeath.com friend Steven F.Scharff:
The owner of the houseboat where Andrew took his life was Tensin Reisnik, a German national who owned a Gay “members only” club in Las Vegas, Nevada (The Apollo, which still exists today). Reisnik was also wanted in Germany for some tax violations, and all the publicity eventually led to his extradition.
Reisnik had bought a fake passport from a group pretending to be representatives from the Principality of Sealand. A real new country project, with a website at www.sealandgov.com, but the passport and other “Sealand” stuff Tensien had were fake, including a phony diplomatic license plate he had on his replica roadster he used to drive around Las Vegas in. He often bragged that he had “diplomatic immunity”. Wasn’t the case, however. Thanks Steven!
On the inside was Cunanan. The sound of the gunshot prompted Carreira to GTFOUT. He called police, and a SWAT team surrounded the houseboat. The news media soon followed. CNN went live. Five hours later, after firing 5 rounds of teargas into it, police stormed the houseboat and found Cunanan’s body. According to the police report:
“The directory is lying in the queen size bed (naturally), in the main bedroom, on the second floor. There are two pillows positioned under his upper body. A third pillow is positioned partially under his right upper arm. The directory is a male with short black hair, and a several days’ growth of a beard. The directory is wearing only a pair of grey cotton shorts. A firearm is found lying in the directory’s right hand which is on his stomach area. The fingers were positioned around the handgrip of the firearm. The firearm is in a “cocked” position. There is a large amount of blood around the facial area of the directory.” The rest is a rather boring description of the scene, however, just for fun, there was a pair of Calvin Klein wire framed glasses and a telephone on the right nightstand. On the left one was a vase, an ashtray, and 4 miscellaneous receipts from 1995. On the top of the dresser were a beaded necklace, orange scarf, and two screwdrivers. Also found in the room was a German dictionary and a small alarm clock.
Now this is gross, and if you are easily grossed out or offended by this gory bit of stuff, please do not look at this next picture. It’s a photograph of Cunanin, after he offed himself. It’s not too grisly, so I didn’t mind including it, but forgive me if I’ve crossed some kind of line. Here it is.
By the way, Cunanan’s blood test revealed that he was HIV negative. Police could rule out that stupid notion that he flipped after being diagnosed, and went on some revenge rampage.
The Dade County Medical Examiner released his body, and Cunanan was supposedly cremated in Florida. His remains were shipped to Holy Cross Cemetery, in San Diego, California, where he is entombed. No details are available about the service.
The houseboat where Cunanan died, sank in December of 97. Supposedly “a leak developed.” There’s got to be a story there, but I couldn’t find anything on it.
Police still have no motive for the slaying. Many theories exist.
December 15, 2001, Findadeath.com friend Shawna sends us this:
I just finished reading your article on Andrew Cunanan and thought I’d add some details. Andrew had noticed some symptoms of HIV and went to get the tests but neglected to go back and get the results. He convinced himself that he had HIV and several of his friends noticed his altered behavior. He started taking the pain pills he usually sold, gained about 30 pounds and stopped shaving or cutting his hair. His killing spree started with 2 of his lovers. Jeff Trail and David Madson, who he believed were seeing each other. In an effort to assure Andrew that they were not seeing each other and against some of their mutual friends advice, the three of them got together. Apparently, they were not convincing and he brutally murdered them both. He returned to Miami to hide out within the anonymity of the Miami Gay clubs and casual housing. He hid pretty good too. Although he had an arrest warrant, he walked the streets freely, encountering the local police department with no ill effects and was able to successfully kill Versace. No one seems to know why he attacked Versace. His friends believe that it was a brush off from Versace at a party when Andrew first hit the scene that decided him, but we’ll never know!
Update Sept 1999:
According to Findadeath.com friend Jack Huber, a ricochet from the bullet, striking the gate, and deflecting, killed the bird found near Versace’s body. The bird was also given an autopsy – and they found a paint chip from the metal gate inside the bird’s eye and head.
Another Findadeath.com pal Mike Crofutt heard that Versace was pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital, at the University of Miami.
Thanks a lot, Jack and Mike. I appreciate the info.
Trivia: Okay, I probably already burned some bridges by posting the dead Andrew photo – so to make up for it, here’s a live one. This is the one and only weenie photo I’ve ever seen of him. If you go here, you are stating that you are over 18 blah de blah blah. Here you go.
I was reading the paper last Saturday (August 14, 1999), and there was a story about Versace’s Miami home going on the market, for $23 million.
This story is exhausting. I’m going to bed. Nite.
UPDATE January 2003, from Findadeath friend Cayley:
Hello. I was just reading FAD about Versace, and then I went on TSG, and they have a copy of the med exam. investigation and he died at Jackson Memorial Ryder Trauma Center ER, so your ex RC employee friend informed you wrongly.
JULY 2003: From a friend of Findadeath.com:
I noticed in your entry on Andrew Cunanan there is no metion made of his murder of Chicago Gold Coast millionaire Lee Miglin who was also the spouse of HSN queen Marilyn Miglin. Factoid: Marilyn Miglin’s Chicago store faced the Versace store there. I remember when Miglin was killed. His head was wrapped in duct tape and there was some speculation that there had been a S&M angle before the Versace event.
I used to work in customer service at Citibank during the time Andrew Cunanan was wanted. The day he died I checked to see if he had a credit card account and he did. It was really over the credit limit and really past due. He hadn’t made a payment in months. The funny thing is that day, the bank had reopened the account, I assume at the request of law enforcement under the hopes that he would try and use it and they could figure out were he was. He didn’t though, because he killed himself the same day.
Apparently the Versace home has been sold. According to Findadeath.com friend Cayley: I was reading about Versace’s house, and found an interesting p.s. to the whole story. The home was purchased in Sept. 2000 for 19 MILLION DOLLARS! (Versace only paid 2.9 million for both buildings, created one super structure and then put another 6.2 mil into it.) by a telecommunications billionaire from Raleigh, NC named Peter Loftin. According to a webpage dated Aug 2000, Casa Casaurina, as Versace named it, was going to open as a 6 star hotel with 15 suites ranging from $2000-$6000 a night. But it looks like, as of now, it is some sort of posh”events facility”.
Check out these great pics of the mansion.