In a country inured to random acts of violence, the death of four ordinary people at the hands of Cunanan was hardly worthy of column inches and his capture was of interest only to close family and the law enforcement agencies involved.
Versace’s death however brought the full weight of global media scrutiny to bear on his South Beach slaughter and networks scrambled for any news, no matter how implausible, about the whereabouts of Versace’s killer. Cunanan’s sordid past was grist to the endless tabloid media mill and political pressure ensured that hundreds of FBI agents were assigned to facilitate his capture. To local forces, there was no other crime more important, smarting at the criticism of having lost opportunities for capture that might have saved Versace’s life, when the earlier blunders came to light. Cunanan had achieved his life’s ambition, the attention of the world’s media was focused squarely on him.
The operational errors made by the authorities continued, although now they were firmly in the public domain, given the media scrutiny after Versace’s death. When the pawnshop information became available, the police raided the hotel Cunanan had listed on the form but were given the wrong room number by reception. Unsurprisingly, the room was empty. When the hotel discovered the error two days later, they again alerted the police but with 48 hours warning, Cunanan was long gone.
With Cunanan’s image plastered everywhere, his options became very limited indeed. He sought refuge in a luxurious houseboat but was discovered there on 23 July 1997 by a security guard doing his rounds at the marina. The guard recognised Cunanan and immediately alerted the authorities.
Determined not to lose Cunanan yet again, hundreds of law enforcement officers descended on the houseboat and a three-hour standoff ensued, with FBI agents gradually inching closer to the boat, using a loud-hailer to demand that Cunanan give himself up. Finally, a gas grenade assault was launched and agents stormed the boat. They found Cunanan’s body in an upstairs bedroom, he had shot himself with the same gun that he had used to kill Madson and Reese.