When serial killer Andrew Cunanan killed himself after taking the lives of five men in 1997, including famed fashion designer Gianni Versace, he left us with a lot of questions. Starting with, what motivated him to shoot and murder Versace on the steps of his Miami mansion?
Unfortunately, most of those answers died with Cunanan. When police found him on the second floor of an abandoned houseboat less than 3 miles from where Versace was murdered, there was no suicide note. Though the reasons behind his killing spree have never been illuminated, many have speculated whether or not Cunanan personally knew Versace.
According to Newsweek, the FBI believed Cunanan had been obsessed with Versace for years. Agents allegedly interviewed several witnesses who said that Cunanan always “bragged” about his relationship with Versace, reported the outlet.
A known conman, Cunanan had built up a reputation as a skillful liar, but had he even met Versace? According to Vanity Fair editor Maureen Orth’s book “Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History,” he had.
Orth alleges, based on multiple witness interviews, that in 1990, Cunanan met Versace in the VIP room of Colossos, a club in San Francisco. The fashion mogul was in town celebrating costumes he had designed for the opera, and Orth says Versace approached Cunanan in the club.
Orth writes, “‘I know you. Lago di Como, no?’ [Versace] said to Andrew. Versace was referring to the house he owned on Lake Como near the Swiss border. Reportedly he would often use the Lago di Como line when he wanted to strike up a conversation with someone. Andrew was thrilled[.] ‘That’s right,’ Andrew answered. ‘Thank you for remembering, Signore Versace.’”
Another man, Doug Stubblefield, also claimed he had seen Cunanan with Versace on a different night in San Francisco that same fall. Stubblefield told Orth a chauffeured car driving Cunanan, Versace and socialite Harry de Wildt pulled up the curb to say hello while he was walking down Market Street.
De Wilt, however, has since denied these allegations, saying he never met Cunanan or drove around San Francisco with him and Versace. To further complicate the story, a friend of Cunanan’s, Steven Gomer, told Orth Cunanan had actually introduced him to de Wilt and that the two appeared to “go back a long way.”
Gomer also claimed that on a separate night, he ran into Cunanan at another San Francisco club. Cunanan was allegedly wearing a tuxedo, and he said he had just come from the opera that Versace had designed costumes for, “Capriccio.” He even told Gomer he “was with Gianni Versace.”
For the past 20 years, the Versace family has been adamant that Cunanan never met Versace. The executive producers of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” also weren’t as sure about this meeting as Orth. In their series, which is based off “Vulgar Favors,” they said they “frame the meeting through Andrew's telling of the story, very deliberately and specifically.”
Darren Criss, who plays Cunanan in “American Crime Story,” also said parts of the season felt "as if we're watching one of Andrew's own delusions."
Last month, Orth told Vanity Fair that even though their meeting has been denied by the Versace family, “There is no doubt in my mind that those two met.
A detective from the Miami Beach Police Department also told CBS News, “I think they [Cunanan and Versace] knew each other … or he wanted to be in his circle, and maybe he was rejected. And this — this is all speculation.”
Sadly, we’ll probably never get close to knowing why Cunanan murdered Versace and those four other men in the spring and summer of 1997.
“For all I know, this violence came out of the blue,” said another detective.
[Photos: Getty Images]
Oxygen's upcoming special "Killing Versace: The Hunt For A Serial Killer" airs February 11 at 7/6c.