‘American Crime Story': Did Andrew Cunanan Really Wrap People in Duct Tape?

A scene in the “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” is based on the murder of one of the victims of Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan

The second episode of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” dials back to before Gianni Versace (Edgar Ramirez) was murdered in the show’s premiere, filling in more of the story of what led to his death at the hands of Andrew Cunanan.

Much of the episode centers on Cunanan (Darren Criss) after his arrival in Miami, while on the run from the FBI. Before that, Cunanan had killed four other men — something “American Crime Story” has mentioned so far but not shown yet — and was the subject of a manhunt. Short on cash, Cunanan looks for a way to earn some without attracting too much attention; before he made it to Florida, he killed four other men. At this point, the authorities have been searching for him for months.

The episode shows how Cunanan might have kept money coming in while he was a fugitive. While on the beach, Cunanan finds a man, and the show implies Cunanan offers the man sex for money. The pair go back to the man’s hotel room, and as their conversation reveals, the man is well-off. For a while, it appears that Cunanan might murder him and rob him.

In the scene, Cunanan wraps the man’s face in duct tape, presenting the idea as a bondage activity. Things quickly escalate as he wraps the man’s entire face in tape, cutting off his ability to breathe. Cunanan eventually punches an airhole in the duct tape, and by the end of the scene, Cunanan has the money he needs. The man calls 911, but never actually reports Cunanan or the terrifying duct tape incident. So did Cunanan really wrap a man’s head in duct tape, or was that just something invented for “American Crime Story?”

Much of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” is based on the facts of the case and “Vulgar Favors,” reporter Maureen Orth’s book about Cunanan. This particular incident is apparently something created just for the show: it isn’t part of Orth’s book, and as far as we’ve been able to verify, it wasn’t reported in 1997.

Cunanan’s use of tape during sex, as well as murder, is true according to the facts of the case and “Vulgar Favors,” though. In one of Cunanan’s crimes, tape played a major role. Like in the show, Cunanan wrapped the head of his third victim, 72-year-old Lee Miglin, in masking tape, Orth wrote. Cunanan also made air holes for Miglin, but unlike the man on “American Crime Story,” Cunanan brutally murdered Miglin by stabbing him and slashing his throat

Orth also notes in “Vulgar Favors” that Cunanan used duct tape, as well as restraints, with his former lover, David Madson. Cunanan made Madson his second victim, shooting him three times in the head.

The show’s use of the duct tape is probably taking a little bit of license with the idea. The suggestion that Cunanan even used the tape on himself seems to be a stretch. There’s at least some information that grounds these scenes in reality, though, even if there’s little information about what Cunanan did while he was on the run before killing Versace.

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