Authorities say the alleged spree killer and assassin of designer Gianni Versace--a man who became the subject of the largest police investigation in U.S. history since the Oklahoma City bombing--shot himself in the head yesterday on a houseboat in Miami Beach.
Police confirmed early this morning that the body found on the houseboat was indeed that of Cunanan. Identification was made through fingerprints.
The houseboat was surrounded by police late yesterday afternoon after a caretaker alerted authorities that he'd stumbled upon an intruder there who resembled Cunanan. The caretaker also told police he'd heard a gunshot. Law enforcement officers stormed the scene, prompting a lengthy standoff that eventually led to police lobbing tear gas into the houseboat, and later, conducting a room-by-room search of the facility.
Initial word was that police found nothing. But at a press conference Thursday, Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Barreto said his elite SWAT team did indeed discover Cunanan's body during their first search of the craft but a "miscommunication" between officers led to the erroneous report.
Cunanan's body was removed from the second floor of the boat at 6:30 a.m. ET and taken to the medical examiner's office. Tests will be conducted there to see if the spree killer had the AIDS virus--which some say drove him to murder.
Barreto also said Cunanan killed himself with a .40-caliber pistol--the same type used in the Versace slaying. Police are conducting ballistics tests on the gun to see if it matches the weapon that killed Versace and Cunanan's other alleged targets.
The 27-year-old California native had been on the FBI's most-wanted list since April, when he allegedly began a cross-country murder binge that left victims in four states--Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey and, finally, Florida.
The FBI heralded the end of the manhunt by nixing Cunanan's photo from the "Ten Most Wanted" list on their Website. A diagonal banner reading "FOUND DEAD" crosses out Cunanan's now-famous face.
Authorities report the owner of the boat, Torsten Reineck, a German, is a fugitive on fraud charges in his homeland. Reineck also owns a popular health spa that caters to a gay clientele just east of the Las Vegas Strip. Police have not said whether Reineck knew Cunanan.
The hunt for Cunanan intensified last week after he was named by authorities as the top, and only, suspect in the murder of Versace. The 50-year-old designer was gunned down in front of his Miami Beach mansion last Tuesday. A memorial service in Milan drew 2,000 on Tuesday of this week.
(Updated 12 p.m. PT)