Despite the best efforts of the Versace family, The Murder of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story debuted last night to large numbers. The narrative ran backwards, starting with the ends of Andrew Cunanan's crime spree, and the killing of Versace. Next week, we'll take things a step backwards again, and learn how Andrew got to Miami, and get more of a look into Versace's life when he was alive. The American Crime Story Versace Episode 2 promo gives us hints of how things were in the world before this crime was committed; the episode is titled "Manhunt."
It may seem a little strange that the events before Versace's death are entitled "Manhunt," but the truth is Cunanan had already made national news before he even arrived in Miami. He was allegedly responsible for four deaths already, one of which was Chicago tycoon Lee Miglin, whom he reportedly killed in a rather spectacularly gruesome fashion, using things like cement and a garden saw. Miglin's high profile name, and the way he was killed, had given the story a sensationalist bent that attracted the attention of rolling news channels like CNN, though Cunanan was not yet a household name.
Here's the synopsis:
Andrew Cunanan arrives in Miami to stalk Gianni Versace. Written by Tom Rob Smith; directed by Nelson Cragg.
And here's the trailer.
As we go backwards we see that Cunanan is a man on the run. The red truck he drives is the car from his last victim William Reese, whom he allegedly killed on his way from New York (where he went after leaving Chicago) down to Miami beach. Reese's body was found only days after Cunanan killed him. Miglin's name had made the search for him a national manhunt.
And yet, we see him checking into a hotel under a fake ID, looking very like he does in his Most Wanted posters, obviously lying about his fashion student status, and no one seems to blink an eye.
The show's certainty of Cunanan's obsession with Versace is still somewhat considered conjecture. But the reality is he did spend two months in Miami after killing Reese, but before shooting Versace, completely undetected. Why?
One reason was the non-computerized nature of the local police units in 1997. Though the computer age and the internet were on the scene, and in use by the FBI, most mid career officers in budget strapped departments who had been on the force for a decade or more were not particularly eager to adopt this newfangled technology they weren't comfortable with into their stations.
Most reports were still done on paper, in triplicate, stuffed in filing cabinets, and sent via fax machines. According to The Washington Post, reports of Cunanan being spotted in Miami were turned into the police, but were "literally lost in the shuffle" of paperwork.
The second reason, and the point that Ryan Murphy and company are making, is that local cops didn't take the Cunanan murders all that seriously. He was murdering gay men, a population that had spent the last 15 years dying from AIDS in holocaust level numbers. Rumors that he and Miglin were lovers had run rampant in the press, suggesting Cunanan was a gigolo, someone that homophobic straight men thought of as "not really capable" of killing, and therefore not particularly dangerous to anyone of importance.
In fact, it wasn't until he killed Versace, someone of international fame and importance, that the cops really got on board with trying to capture him. This rewinds back into that time period when they could have done something, and saved Versace's life, but didn't.
With Versace still alive in this episode, we'll also get a good look at a recreation of one of his last fashion shows, held just before his death. So there's lots to look forward to this week on American Crime Story.