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Andrew Cunanan's quiet life in Miami Beach


Those whose path he crossed describe daily routine

July 27, 1997
Web posted at: 9:57 p.m. EDT (0157 GMT)

From Reporter Tom Watkins

MIAMI BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- During the two months he hid out in Miami Beach, accused spree killer Andrew Cunanan established a quiet routine, according to those who crossed his path.

He ate fast food and stopped daily to buy cheap vodka that he drank out of a Styrofoam cup. He spent his days in a seaside hotel, venturing out at dark and staying out all night. He apparently did little to draw attention to himself -- or strike fear in those he met.

"He was a very good guest," says Miriam Hernandez, the manager of the Normandy Hotel, where Cunanan lived for two months until the shooting of fashion designer Gianni Versace. "You felt good with him. He spoke sweetly. I was never afraid."

"How can I be afraid of a person who is gentle, who treats me nice, who is educated?"

Cunanan had fake ID, passport

Through interviews with witnesses, CNN has been able to establish a portrait of the life lived by Cunanan, who was already wanted for four murders when he arrived in Miami Beach in May.

He apparently had a false ID and fake passport. And after the slaying of Versace, he even revisited one of his local haunts, despite the intense manhunt then under way.

Once a day, and sometimes twice, Cunanan would visit a liquor store a half-block from the hotel. There, owner Pinchas "Pinky" Grossman would sell him a half-pint of McCormick-brand vodka for $2.44. Cunanan would pour its contents into a white plastic coffee cup, place a top on the cup and leave.

"He had enough to worry about, I guess, without getting arrested for drinking (alcohol) on the street," Grossman said.

According to Grossman, Cunanan returned to his liquor store six days after the Versace murder to get one last bottle of vodka. He poured it into a cup and threw the bottle into a trash can.

Grossman said he believed at the time that this regular customer was the suspected killer, but he said he decided not to report it to police because it would interrupt his business. "It'd just cost me money," he said.

But after Cunanan left for the last time, Grossman fished from the trash the bottle he left behind and has saved it, he said.

Cunanan originally checked in for one night

When Cunanan first checked into the Normandy, he used a false passport and driver's license for his identification, Hernandez said. At the request of police, she would not say what name Cunanan used, nor would she say whether his passport was from the United States. But, she said, the phony ID appeared real.

The 27-year-old had originally checked in for just one night, paying $35.73 in cash for Room 116, the smallest of the 65 rooms in the three-story hotel, Hernandez said. He was wearing shorts, a tube top and leather sandals.

"He was a good-looking guy," said Hernandez. "He had a beautiful smile. He was handsome."

The only luggage he brought was a dark-blue, medium-sized backpack. The absence of luggage didn't strike Hernandez as odd because he was only staying one night.

But one night stretched into two months. After four nights in Room 116, Cunanan asked for a larger room, and he moved upstairs to Room 201. He told Hernandez he was looking for an apartment but was having trouble finding one he liked. Because she liked him, she gave him a monthly rate of $702, less than the nearly $800 the hotel usually charges.

After a week in 201, Cunanan asked whether a room with an ocean view was available. That day, Room 322, which has a refrigerator, a stove and a view of the ocean, opened up. "He loved the room," Hernandez said.

Cunanan's routine varied little

His routine varied little. At noon, Hernandez's brother, in charge of housekeeping, would knock on his door in order to enter the room and clean it. Invariably, Cunanan would respond through the closed door that nothing was needed. Once in a while, he put a bag of dirty towels on the outer doorknob and asked that they be replaced with fresh towels.

On the few days when no one responded to his knock, the housekeeper entered to find the room immaculate. No personal effects were visible, Hernandez said her brother had told her. He always carried his backpack with him.

Four or five days a week, he would buy lunch at Miami Subs, a fast-food restaurant a block north of the hotel. He would order a tuna sandwich or a quarter chicken, manager Jose Fabrize recalled. He was always polite.

"Never in my life would I have thought he was (a murderer)," Fabrize said.

At dinner time, Cunanan would descend to the lobby, usually clean-shaven, though once in a while sporting two or three days' growth of beard. His wardrobe changed little: shorts and a T-shirt, sandals, a baseball cap. In the lobby, he always wore a hat and dark sunglasses. Once or twice, the hat was turned backwards.


He would leave, returning shortly afterward with a bag of food from a nearby McDonald's or KFC or one of the other fast-food establishments that line the nearby streets. He took his dinner upstairs, speaking to no one.

Shortly after 10 p.m., he would return to the lobby and depart. He often spent the entire night out, according to the night clerk, who must buzz in all visitors and guests at night. He had no visitors, the clerk said.

Funeral home number circled in phone book

He once asked the hotel for a Yellow Pages telephone directory and a new book was delivered. Several telephone numbers to area hospitals were written in blue ink. A telephone number for a funeral home was also circled.

Don Villalovas, 37, a boxing trainer who lives in the hotel with his girlfriend and their infant girl, recalled Cunanan's comings and goings.

"He always looked like he was in a hurry. He'd walk quickly, like he had to get somewhere," Villalovas said.

The lack of communication with others was his choice, according to Ronnie Holston, a 43-year-old retired florist who has lived in the hotel for a year.

Holston said he was struck by Cunanan's red pickup truck, which was parked in front of the hotel and bore South Carolina plates. Holston, who is from North Carolina, asked him where he was from in South Carolina.

"He just wouldn't say anything," Holston says.

On a Thursday, five days before Italian designer Gianni Versace was gunned down outside his Miami Beach mansion, Cunanan told Hernandez that he had found the apartment he was looking for and would be moving out.

"I said, 'I'm sorry you have to move. You've been very nice, and I enjoyed your stay and any time you're welcome back,'" she said.

Cunanan was to switch back to his daily rate for the last day of his stay. Hernandez called him at 11 a.m. Friday to tell him he owed for the extra day. "I'm tired today," he told her. "Can I pay tomorrow on my way out?"

"I said, 'Sure, all right,'" Hernandez said.

That was the last time they spoke. Saturday morning, the housekeeper found the door to room 322 ajar, the key on the table. Three days later, Versace was shot.

Cunanan gave wrong room number on pawn ticket

Police traced Cunanan to the hotel after they found a pawn shop ticket in the red pickup truck, which was found parked in a garage near Versace's mansion after his murder.

Cunanan had signed his real name and given the address of the Normandy when he pawned a gold coin days before the Versace slaying. But he gave a room number, 205, where he never stayed.

The room belonged to Holston. When police arrived, they found him, not Cunanan, in Room 205. Holston says he has no clue why Cunanan would have put his room number on the pawn ticket.

The revelation that their quiet guest was linked to five murders and was the subject of one of the country's biggest manhunts has left the people at the Normandy rattled, according to hotel owner James Roger Falin.

During the days after police arrived at the hotel, Falin even kept a pistol in a drawer behind the desk. But last Friday night, two days after Cunanan killed himself on a houseboat, Falin returned the pistol to its usual spot in the hotel safe.

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