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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Inside a small apartment on South Beach, only a few blocks from the spot where twenty years earlier fashion designer Gianni Versace was brazenly gunned down, Fernando Carreira recalls his role in the hunt for the killer, Andrew Cunanan.
“The police no found him, I found him,” said Carreira, now 91. “They found the body, because we called, because I called.”
Smiling on the bed next to him was Luz, his wife for 41 years. “I remember everything,” he added.
It was July 23, 1997, eight days after Versace’s murder, that the couple was checking on a houseboat parked on the waterway along Collins and 54th Street. As Carreira opened the door he noticed something wrong. The houseboat was a mess and there appeared someone had broken in and was living there.
“At that time I pulled the gun,” he recalled, demonstrating by pulling out the very same .38-caliber handgun he had 20 years earlier. “At that moment, I give only one step. I give only one step with the gun like that – BOOM – I run right away, my wife and myself, we run out because we thought somebody shoot at me.”
Carreira said he was scared by the sound of the shot “because I thought somebody was trying to shoot at me – somebody shoot me and missed.”
The man inside the houseboat was Andrew Cunanan. Rather than shooting at Carreira, we now know that when he heard Carreira enter the house, he killed himself fearing it was the police coming to arrest him.
“He killed himself because he saw me with the gun,” Carreira said. “If he no see me with the gun, he no kill himself, maybe he kill me.”
After fleeing the houseboat, Carreira called police who eventually stormed the boat and found Cunanan in an upstairs bedroom with a single shot to the head. Carreira said he believes the police should have caught Cunanan much sooner.
“The police look for him; the police did lousy job,” Carreira said. “I’m not afraid to tell the truth.”
Overnight Carreira became the most famous caretaker in the country. Today the walls of his tiny South Beach apartment are lined with newspaper clippings. He even made the front pages of the newspapers in Portugal, where he was born
“And here this is myself when they give me the money,” he said pointing to a picture of him holding up a check.
Carreira collected $50,000 in rewards – but that money is long gone now. He lost it in a business deal.
“It was a very bad investment and I lose the money, I lose everything,” he said with a shrug. “That’s all I can say
Carreira is well aware he will always be known the caretaker who found Gianni Versace’s killer.
“Sure I’m proud,” he smiled. “I did a good thing for the country, for everybody because the guy was a danger for everybody. That guy was a big criminal. He killed five people. He killed a lot of innocent people.