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Cunanan found dead

By EVAN PEREZ Associated Press Writer Published: July 24, 1997 12:00 AM

"All across the nation, our citizens can stand down and breathe

a sigh of relief. The reign of terror brought upon us by Andrew Cunanan

is over," police Chief Richard Barreto said today.

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As the sun peeked over the horizon, Cunanan's body was removed from the

floating home more than 14 hours after the siege began Wednesday.

The suspected serial killer's face was "blown off," said John

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Walsh of Fox's "America's Most Wanted," who visited the scene.

The shot to the face slowed the identification. It was more than 10 hours

before police confirmed the body in the house was Cunanan.

"The shot to the face made the identification of the body much more

difficult," Metro-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas said. "In addition to

that, the only other available method of identifying the body was fingerprints."

Stanley Trail of DeKalb, Ill., father of Jeffrey Trail, one of the men

Cunanan is believed to have killed, said, "I'm very glad that he's

been stopped and that nobody else got hurt when he got stopped. But I take

no joy in his death. That doesn't help me at all."

"That's one of the bad things about him dying like this: Nobody

will be able to ask him," the elder Trail said. "Nobody will be

able to tell me why this happened."

And investigators had not found a suicide note as of early today, leaving

unsolved much of the mystery as to what may have triggered the cross-country

killing spree.

More than 100 police and FBI agents surrounded the floating, two-story

home Wednesday night after a report of a gunshot coming from inside.

"The best guess" is that Cunanan killed himself as a caretaker

arrived to check on the property, Metro-Dade police director Carlos Alvarez


But police on the outside had no idea Cunanan had shot himself. They

shouted, "Come out! Come out!" but the man believed hiding inside

did not respond. They waited for hours before going in and finding Cunanan's


"There was an unprecedented level of pressure put on this man by

law enforcement and media exposure," Barreto said. "I think he

was a desperate person. He was in a situation where it was very, very difficult

for him to move about."

Barreto said Cunanan was identified by his thumbprint and the gun found

inside the houseboat was similar to the one used in three of five killings

in which Cunanan was a suspect.

The 27-year-old Cunanan shot up to the top of the FBI's most wanted list

as the prime suspect in the slayings of Versace and four other men in Minnesota,

Illinois and New Jersey. After the Versace slaying on July 15, Cunanan abandoned

a stolen pickup truck belonging to one of his victims in a parking garage

and vanished.

"We were probably prepared for something like this," said FBI

spokeswoman Coleen Rowley. "A person who is using desperate means and

exhibiting this kind of violent behavior, you have to be prepared for a

very violent conclusion."

Residents near the houseboat had reported seeing a man matching Cunanan's

description after Versace was shot to death on the front steps of his mansion.

On Wednesday, a caretaker who stopped by the home called police to report

a gunshot.

The houseboat is 2 1/2 miles from the Versace mansion and about a mile

from the hotel where a man fitting Cunanan's description stayed for as long

as two months before Versace's slaying.

For four hours police waited outside the houseboat, which sits on a branch

of the Intracoastal Waterway called Indian Creek.

After firing volleys of tear gas, the SWAT team walked slowly in a line

into the house. After nearly an hour inside, police announced their search

had come up empty.

But after another room-by-room search they found the body of Cunanan,

who had been described by his mother as a gay gigolo.

Police were slowed by the tear gas and found Cunanan's body several hours

later. Barreto said officers never fired a shot. Cunanan suffered a self-inflicted

gunshot wound, investigators said.

A source told The Associated Press that the body was found on the second

floor of the houseboat, where bedrooms are located. Investigators suspect

the shot that the caretaker heard was the suicide shot, the source said.

A .40-caliber handgun, the same type of weapon Cunanan was believed to

have used in his cross-country killing spree, was found near the body, according

to television reports.

Cunanan had eluded an intensive nationwide search which generated hundreds

of sightings all over the country. He managed to escape capture even though

his picture was plastered on television, newspapers, the Internet and wanted


Records showed the houseboat, which had been vacant for several months,

is owned by Torsten Reineck. He is listed as the owner of the Apollo Spa,

a gay health spa in Las Vegas. Clark County (Nev.) Licensing Bureau showed

Reineck is a Miami Beach resident. Reineck is not listed in local phone

directories in Las Vegas and could not be reached for comment.

According to an FBI agent who asked not to be identified, there is no

sign that Cunanan ever knew Reineck.

In Minnesota, Cunanan was charged in the death of a former lover, David

Madson, and was suspected of killing Trail, a friend. He also was suspected

in the death of Chicago developer Lee Miglin and charged in the killing

of New Jersey cemetery caretaker William Reese.

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