July 15

This Day in History

General Interest

Jul 15, 1997:

Versace murdered in Cunanan killing spree

Spree killer Andrew Cunanan murders world-renowned Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace on the steps outside his Miami mansion. Versace was shot twice in the head, and Cunanan fled.

Andrew Cunanan had no criminal record before the spring of 1997, when he began a killing spree in Minneapolis. On April 27, 1997, after traveling from San Diego, Cunanan bludgeoned Jeffrey Trail to death. Trail was an acquaintance of David Madson, an ex-lover of Cunanan's whom Cunanan in turn murdered on May 3. Cunanan shot Madson in the head, dumped his body near a lake outside Minneapolis, and took his red Jeep Cherokee. Two days later, in Chicago, he gained access to the estate of wealthy developer Lee Miglin, beat him to death, and stole his Lexus. On May 9, Cunanan abandoned Miglin's automobile in Pennsville, New Jersey, and shot cemetery caretaker William Reese to death for his red pickup truck.

With a massive FBI manhunt for Cunanan already underway, he drove down to Miami Beach and on July 11 was recognized by a fast-food employee who had seen his picture on the television show America's Most Wanted. However, the police arrived too late, and four days later Cunanan shot Versace to death outside his South Beach mansion. Although Cunanan and Versace were both openly gay and ran in similar circles, the police failed to find evidence that they had ever met.

Versace's killing set off a nationwide manhunt for Cunanan, who was famous for his chameleon-like ability to appear differently in every picture taken of him. However, on July 23, the search ended just 40 blocks away from Versace's home on a two-level houseboat that Cunanan had broken into. There, police found him dead from a self-inflicted bullet wound from the same gun that took the lives of two of his victims. He left no suicide note.

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