Cunanan acted alone in Versace murder Police probe uncovers no accomplice or motive

December 31, 1997|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Ending the most extensive criminal investigation in the city's history, Police Chief Richard Barreto said yesterday that spree killer Andrew Cunanan acted alone when he murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace.

But Barreto said at a news conference that the motive for the July 15 killing may never be known.

"We can speculate about the motive being robbery, or Andrew Cunanan going out in a big way or revenge for some perceived act by Versace, but the real motive went down with the ship, so to speak, when Andrew Cunanan committed suicide" a week after the Versace killing, he said.

Barreto declined to say whether Cunanan had acquired immune deficiency syndrome, which many suggested was a possible motive for his spree killings. But the chief said, "I think you already know that answer," referring to published reports that Cunanan did not have AIDS.

He also said authorities would not release pictures of Versace's autopsy. The famed designer's family has sought to keep those photos under wraps and yesterday filed a lawsuit to do just that.

Investigators determined that Cunanan did not know Versace, although he may have had two brief encounters with him four years ago.

The .40-caliber handgun used to kill Versace was the same one used by Cunanan to kill two other victims, one in Minnesota and one in Pennsylvania.

Records also suggest that chance prevented Cunanan from escaping from Miami Beach immediately after he shot Versace. Police were at the scene of a car accident at a garage where Cunanan had parked his getaway vehicle, stolen from another victim.

"When he ran back to that garage, there were two marked units with the lights on. In his panicked state, I'm sure he thought that perhaps he thought they were there as a result of the shooting," Barreto said. "If that hadn't happened, I think he would have gotten into the truck, gotten away and probably killed again."

Cunanan committed suicide July 23 in a houseboat docked on Indian Creek about two miles from where Versace was killed.

Among the findings released yesterday was that one of the two bullets fired at Versace was at point-blank range, in the face, and that Cunanan stalked his victim, in the end waiting on a patch of grass as Versace approached.

Pub Date: 12/31/97

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