How Did Andrew Cunanan Get Away With Murder?
Andrew Cunanan killed four people before murdering fashion mogul Gianni Versace in broad daylight on July 15, 1997. But despite being named to America's Most Wanted, Cunanan was never caught and eventually took his own life. Now, 20 years later, the case is receiving renewed interest thanks to FX's hit series American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
Those who've found themselves enthralled by the saga will have yet another chance to learn about the infamous investigation with Oxygen's special "Killing Versace: The Hunt for a Serial Killer," set to air this Sunday, February 11th. With the help of experts—including Miami-based attorney Katie Phang, a seasoned legal contributor to NBC and MSNBC, who was not involved with the original Cunanan case—the show will explore just how Versace's murder was possible. We spoke with Phang about some of the most surprising facts surrounding the investigation.
AFTER POLICE DISCOVERED CUNANAN'S FIRST VICTIM JEFF TRAIL IN THE HOME OF THEIR MUTUAL FRIEND DAVID MADSON—CUNANAN'S SECOND VICTIM—INVESTIGATORS ASSUMED MADSON WAS RESPONSIBLE.
Madson was reportedly "missing" when police found Trail's body in his home. Though there were clues left behind by Cunanan—including a duffel bag with his name on it—they seemingly slipped through the cracks. It wasn't until after , days later, that police began to make the connection. Unfortunately, Cunanan was already on his way to Chicago where he would go on to .
CUNANAN LEFT PLENTY OF DNA AT THE SITE OF HIS MURDERS.
In David Madson's home, Cunanan left a pair of jeans that wouldn't have fit either Madson or Trail and a duffel bag with his name on it. The DNA at the home of Lee Miglin, his third victim, showed that Cunanan ate, bathed, and shaved there. He parked David Madson's stolen red Jeep just blocks from Miglin's home, and in Reese's stolen car there were news clippings about Cunanan's previous murders. "There are certain things that law enforcement overlooked that would have linked Andrew Cunanan sooner to the crimes," says Phang, "From a prosecutor's standpoint, it's frustrating."
Andrew Cunanan (left) and Gianni Versace (right).
A RADIO BROADCAST MAY HAVE TIPPED OFF CUNANAN TO THE FACT THAT POLICE
WERE PURSUING HIM.
Cunanan was on his way south, driving Lee Miglin's
ANDREW CUNANAN WAS IN MIAMI FOR WEEKS BEFORE HE MURDERED GIANNI VERSACE.
Cunanan arrived in Miami in May and didn't kill Versace until mid-July, but neither the police nor the FBI concluded that it was likely he was there. It wasn't until June, when investigators made a link between the murder of William Reese–Cunanan's fourth victim–and Trail and Madson, that the FBI put Cunanan on their most wanted list. At that time, posters bearing Cunanan's face were produced and he was featured on the TV show America's Most Wanted. Phang reported that. "It was almost like the perfect storm of failures and missteps and oversights that aided Cunanan in evading any identification or capture in Miami," says Phang.
The Versace mansion
THE MIAMI POLICE FAILED TO TAKE CUNANAN'S SEXUALITY INTO CONSIDERATION WHEN INVESTIGATING THE CASE.
According to Phang, police investigation during this time was done through the "old-boy networking," which relied on sources well-known to the police. "I don't think the gay link was focused on early enough by law enforcement," Phang says, "They were probably looking at the case in too much of an isolated view." At the time, the Miami police had apparently not cultivated many sources in the gay community, which allowed Cunanan to hide in plain
CUNANAN LEFT HIS FINGERPRINTS, FULL NAME, AND PASSPORT INFORMATION AT A PAWN SHOP IN MIAMI.
Cunanan pawned a coin stolen from Lee Miglin at a local shop that required he leave his thumbprints, full name, and address. Cunanan even handed over his passport information. However, at the time there were no automated systems scanning and matching thumbprints; an officer scanned these records manually and unfortunately, the detective who typically checked these files was on vacation the week Cunanan pawned Miglin's coin. Phang admits that this albeit accidental oversight on behalf of the police is an absurd break for Cunanan: "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," says Phang.
A DEAD BIRD BESIDE VERSACE SPARKED A RUMOR THAT HIS HOMICIDE WAS A MAFIA MURDER.
Investigators briefly considered the possibility's that Versace's murder was a mafia killing. A dead bird next to a body was a calling card of some mafia hits, but further investigation showed that in this case, a bullet fragment had hit and killed the bird. Cunanan's father, who struggled at first to admit his son had committed the crimes, apparently disseminated the mafia rumor himself.
THE VERSACE FAMILY WERE RELUCTANT TO COOPERATE WITH LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT FOLLOWING VERSACE'S MURDER.
The Versace family to be cremated within days of his death, leaving investigators little time to conduct a post-mortem evaluation. While Phang can't say whether the authorities knew of the family's plans, she does argue that the speed is unusual and does "raise an eyebrow." And the action did little to dampen rumors that Versace had HIV.
Sting, Anna Wintour, Trudie Styler, and Princess Diana at Gianni Versace's funeral in Milan.
THERE IS STILL NO CONSENSUS ON CUNANAN'S MOTIVES.
While many experts believe that Cunanan sought fame—and point to his collection of news clippings about the murders as proof that he craved recognition—questions linger about why Cunanan took his own life. "It almost seems inconsistent if he wanted to be famous," Phang says of Cunanan's suicide. "He had a yearbook and there was an entry by him in French: après
It's a question for which we may never have an answer.
*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors