Two men died under mysterious circumstances in an upper bedroom suite of the Italian mansion on Miami Beach where Gianni Versace was murdered on July 15, 1997. The deaths were discovered by housekeeping staff on the eve of the 24th anniversary of Versace’s murder.
Versace, then 50, was shot twice in the back of the head as he opened the iron gates of his mansion after having breakfast at the News Cafe a few blocks away. The assailant was identified as Andrew Cunanan, a serial killer who preyed on gay men as he traveled from California to Florida, and who took his own life eight days later inside a houseboat after a lengthy standoff. It is still not known if Cunanan and Versace knew each other intimately, but photos of the men at the same event months before the murder imply they may have met. The Versace family has fought allegations that the two might have been lovers.
The mansion, called the Villa Casa Casuarina, which was kitted out with marble, gilded mirrors, and plenty of mosaic tiles imported from Italy, has undergone a series of transitions since Versace's murder. It is currently a boutique hotel with 10 rooms running upwards of $1,800 a night. The hotel has a swanky restaurant where Logan Paul and Floyd Mayweather met before their epic boxing match at Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami police responded to a call from the housekeeping staff at the luxury hotel shortly after 1:20 p.m. on Wednesday after they discovered the dead men in an upstairs room.
A source close to the staff told The Daily Beast that the room was not in disarray and that they suspected a suicide pact or murder-suicide in some of the most lavish surroundings in Florida.
Miami police have not given details of the scene, but there is no manhunt currently underway, implying that they do not suspect an outsider. They said a death—not murder—investigation is currently underway.
After the murder of Versace, his live-in boyfriend at the time, Antonio D’Amico, told The Daily Beast that various accounts of Versace’s life have been exploited and fictionalized. His murder was the subject of American Crime Story, which the Versace family said was a “work of fiction.”
Charles Podesta, Versace’s butler, recalled the fateful day his beloved boss was murdered, describing the popping sound he thought was fireworks just after 9 a.m. when he was in the kitchen helping prepare breakfast for his boss.
Podesta’s voice can be heard on the 911 call telling the operator, “A man’s been shot. Please, immediately, please.” When the operator asks for more information, Podesta says, “I don’t know, he was walking in front of his home. It’s Gianni Versace.” Podesta told The Daily Beast when the series came out that the day Versace died was unusual, starting with the fact that the designer rarely, if ever, went out to get his own newspapers. The fact he did put him on the marble steps leading up to the villa and in Cunanan’s sights. Podesta has always wondered if it was just a coincidence that the killer happened upon him. Had he not gone out for the papers, would he still be alive?
Podesta managed the Versace household after the murder and until it was sold. During that time, he created the “Versace experience” for personal friends of the designer who would come to pay respects. He would create the exact ambiance that Versace would have created for the guests. Eventually, when the family sold the villa, Podesta moved on.