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S P E C I A L Cunanan Coverage

FBI: Cunanan made call to find passport

Cunanan's body being removed from the houseboat July 25, 1997
Web posted at: 7:49 a.m. EDT (0749 GMT)

Latest developments:

MIAMI (CNN) -- Cornered in South Florida after the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace, suspected spree killer Andrew Cunanan called an acquaintance in an attempt to get a passport to flee the country, an FBI official said Thursday.

At a news conference in Washington, FBI Deputy Director William Esposito declined to identify the recipient of Cunanan's phone call or even say where the person lived.

But he said Cunanan's acquaintance did not contact the FBI after the call, despite the massive public search then under way for the fugitive. The FBI found out about the phone call during systematic questioning of known Cunanan associates that was part of the investigation, Esposito said.

Esposito said the acquaintance "declined comment" when asked by the FBI why no attempt was made to contact authorities with the information. The acquaintance described Cunanan as "agitated and nervous" and said he didn't make any admissions about the Versace killing, Esposito added.

Cunanan, 27, committed suicide Wednesday afternoon in a Miami Beach houseboat moored about 2 1/2 miles from where Versace was gunned down last week. He was the prime suspect in the murder of the famed Italian designer and the slaying of four other men in Minnesota, Illinois and New Jersey.

Law enforcement authorities press conference
icon 7 min., 39 sec. VXtreme streaming video

His passport was found in a truck found in a parking garage near the Versace killing. The truck belonged to William Reese , a New Jersey cemetery caretaker killed in May.

In the phone call, Cunanan asked the acquaintance if he knew of anyone on the East Coast who might be able to supply him with a passport, Esposito said. The recipient of the phone call and Cunanan discussed about 10 people, who were subsequently warned by the FBI, Esposito said.

Cunanan may have used houseboat as base

Cunanan

Authorities believe Cunanan may have been holed up for days in the houseboat, before shooting himself after being discovered by the boat's caretaker.

"He was there a good bit of time," FBI Miami Agent-in-Charge Paul Philip said at a Thursday news conference. "The houseboat had electricity. It had water. So it's quite possible that he was in there or using it as a base of operation."

The houseboat's caretaker last visited the boat on Saturday.

Philip said the FBI would "very much like to chat" with the owner of the houseboat, a German national identified as Torsten Reineck, to determine if he has any connection with Cunanan.



Map of Cunanan's trail through the U.S.

Thursday evening, FBI agents reportedly were interviewing Reineck in Las Vegas. German authorities said Reineck is a fugitive wanted on fraud charges.

"If we find that somebody has been harboring (Cunanan), we'll proceed against them federally. I'll tell you that," Philip said.

Houseboat

The FBI said it found evidence inside the houseboat that may be linked to the five murders, including a blue safe in the bedroom where Cunanan was found. The affidavit said it wasn't known whether Cunanan had access to the safe, but that it may contain more evidence from the killings.

The houseboat -- which sits on a branch of the Intracoastal Waterway called Indian Creek -- is about a mile from the hotel where a man fitting Cunanan's description stayed for as long as two months before Versace was slain.

Philip said authorities combed the area where the boat is located after the Versace killing, going door-to-door in their exhaustive manhunt. It was not clear whether Cunanan was at the houseboat or if it was checked by authorities at the time.

"We've been knocking on doors all over South Florida," Philip said. "This was nothing fancy. It's simple, old-fashioned, hard police work: knocking on doors and talking to folks."

Suicide gun same type used in other murders

SWAT team members who stormed the houseboat late Wednesday found Cunanan's body on the bed in the upstairs master bedroom, agent Keith Evans said in an affidavit. Large amounts of blood were seen coming from the suspect's ears, mouth and nose, and he had a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun lying on his groin, the affidavit said.

The same type of gun was used in the Versace slaying and in two others in which Cunanan was a suspect.

It took the police until early Thursday to confirm that the corpse was Cunanan's, based in part on his thumb print. The Dade County Medical Examiner's Department said Cunanan shot himself in the mouth.

His death means authorities may never know what motivated his actions over the past three months. So far, no suicide note has been found.

"There are many questions that we still have," Esposito said. "We would have preferred that Mr. Cunanan be taken alive."

"Over a period of time, maybe [he would] have cooperated and maybe told us why he did the things he did."

In addition to the murder of Versace and Reese, Cunanan also was wanted for questioning in the murders of his former lover, David Madson, 33, and a friend, Jeffrey Trail , 28, in April in Minnesota.

He also had been charged in the slaying of millionaire Chicago developer Lee Miglin , 72, in May. Authorities have so far established no connection between Cunanan and either Miglin or Reese.

 
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