Unspeakable Crimes It's Been Over 20 Years Since Gianni Versace Was Shot, But The Killer's Motive Is Still A Mystery  

Jacob Shelton
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The 1997 murder of Gianni Versace has been thrust into the spotlight once again thanks to Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story, but viewers of the show looking for answers as to why this fashion icon was cut down in his prime may still have questions even after finishing the series. Versace’s murder at the hands of 27-year-old Andrew Cunanan, an incredibly charming serial killer, is a look into the oblique mind of a murderer who finished his killing spree with a very public exit. In a way, it's unsatisfying to have such a tragic case so cut-and-dry, but although rumors of mob involvement and a personal connection to the murderer have swirled around the high-profile case, the serial killer in the end was really just a gold-digging escort who preyed on gay men.

Despite being known entities throughout their lives, famous people who were murdered were rarely killed because of their fame. Gianni Versace, quite possibly the most famous fashion designer in the world, was murdered seemingly at random, struck down at the height of his power for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time — or for perhaps just being a legendary figure that the young killer wished he could emulate, but couldn't.

The Morning He Was Killed, Versace Did Something He Never Did - Left The House To Buy His Own Newspaper

Gianni Versace never went to get his own paper. It just wasn't something that he did. Usually he sent his assistant out for the paper but on the morning of July 15, 1997, he decided to run the errand himself. When Versace returned home with papers in hand he arrived at the same time as Andrew Cunanan. As soon as Versace put his key in the lock he was shot once in the face and once in his neck at point blank range. 

Versace died in a pool of his own blood on the steps of his villa. His partner of 15 years, Antonio D’Amico, was drinking coffee on the patio nearby when he heard the gunshots. He and the butler went to investigate and found a horrific scene. “I saw Gianni lying on the steps, with blood around him. At that point, everything went dark. I was pulled away, I didn’t see any more," he said.

Police Thought Versace's Death May Have Been A Mob Hit

Immediately after Gianni Versace was gunned down at his own front door, a passerby Martin Weinstein arrived at the scene, having heard the shots. He described the clinical nature of the killing as "execution style." Next to Versace's body was a dead dove. Police believed that the bird was the sign of a mafia hit, but shortly afterwards they dismissed that theory as a far reach and chased their leads down to Andrew Cunanan. 

Years after the fact, two mobsters, Giuseppe Di Bella and Filippo Barecca, said that Cunanan was framed and that the police were correct in their initial assumption. According to Di Bella and Barecca, Versace was helping launder money for the mob and that's how he ended up dead at his front door. 

Cunanan Began His Murder Spree By Killing His Ex-Lover

Prior to killing Versace, Cunanan had been on a country-wide killing spree. In doing so he'd become a known entity to the FBI as a serial killer who preyed on gay men and stole their cars after he finished his attacks. Between April 27 and May 9, 1997, Cunanan murdered four men with nothing in common other than the fact that they had the bad luck of coming in contact with the killer. 

Cunanan's first victim, Jeffrey Trail, was selling propane in Minneapolis when Cunanan invited him to Cunanan's alleged former lover David Madson's apartment. Aside from neighbors claiming to hear an argument no one knows what happened that night. Trail's body was later discovered rolled up in a carpet in Madson's closet. He'd been bludgeoned to death. A few days later, fishermen found Madson's body on the shore of a lake 50 miles from Minneapolis with two bullet holes in his head. It's still unclear as to whether Madson helped Cunanan kill Trail or if the former lover spent the last few days of his life in captivity, waiting for death. 

Cunanan Committed Four Brutal Murders Before Driving To Miami

Cunan's killing spree didn't follow guidelines that have been created to attempt to rationalize how serial killers develop. There are no reports of him displaying the controversial McDonald Triad and it doesn't look like he eased his way into his lifestyle or had any particular ties to his victims. He just started killing people. After his first two kills — Jeffrey Trail adn David Madson, respectively — Cunanan drove to Chicago where he ran into Lee Miglin, a 75-year-old real estate maven. No one knows if Cunanan or Miglin hooked up or if Miglin was simply in Cunanan's way, but the Miglin family are thorough in their defense of the patriarch's sexuality.

Regardless of what occurred between the two men, Miglin's body was found in his garage wrapped in plastic and brown paper tape. Cunanan had stabbed Miglin in the chest with garden shears, broken the elderly man's ribs, then cut his throat with a bone saw. After the murder, Cunanan left plenty of evidence for the police. He even shaved and left his trimmed hairs in the sink.