When Gianni Versace was found shot to death on the front steps of his Miami mansion on July 15, 1997, several different theories circulated about who could have been responsible. Versace was one of the most iconic fashion designers of the 1980s and 1990s, which made him very wealthy and well known. Some speculated that his murder may have been the result of a mob hit. However, suspicion quickly turned to Andrew Cunanan, a man who was already on the run from the police for several similar murders.
Cunanan, 27, had a troubled childhood, but grew up to be extremely charming. He was known for getting romantically involved with older, wealthy men in order to finance his desire for a lavish lifestyle. However, these men eventually cut Cunanan out of their lives, which not only angered him, but threatened his financial stability, since he relied on them for money.
Authorities believe that this downward spiral was the stressor which caused Cunanan to go on a spree of murders in April 1997, beginning with two men in Minnesota with whom he had had previous relationships. After these murders Cunanan fled to Miami, killing two more men along the way with whom he had no apparent connections. Cunanan was able to evade authorities in Miami for over two months, and was even placed on the FBI Most Wanted List in June. On the morning of July 15, he waited outside of Versace’s mansion until the designer returned home from his morning walk and shot him twice in the head.
It didn’t take long for police to identify Cunanan as a prime suspect. While there was no verified connection between Cunanan and Versace, Cunanan claimed to have met him at a party in San Francisco in 1990 and revered the designer as a role model. As a rich and famous, proudly gay man living the extravagant life of a superstar, Versace exemplified everything Cunanan wanted but didn’t have. Furthermore, Versace matched the profile of Cunanan’s previous victims. As a result, investigators quickly linked Versace’s death to Cunanan’s now infamous spree and began hunting the fugitive in Miami. On July 24, eight days after Versace was murdered, police responded to a 911 call reporting gun shots on a houseboat and found Cunanan’s body, having turned the gun used to kill Versace on himself.
The steps of Versace’s extravagant mansion in Miami where he was killed remains a popular spot with tourists.