A Florida man has been convicted of killing his parents and brother after they tried to cut off his relationship with a Bulgarian webcam model he met through an adult website.
Jurors found Grant Amato, 30, guilty of three counts of first-degree murder after deliberating for more than eight hours on Wednesday, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Prosecutors contend that Amato killed his parents, Margaret and Chad Amato, and brother, Cody Amato, in the family’s rural Florida home in January after becoming obsessed with a cam girl named Silvie — even stealing $200,000 from his father and brother in an attempt to make himself appear rich and successful to his romantic interest.
Prosecutors said he used the money to buy the model lavish gifts and clothes. But, the theft was soon discovered by his family. The Amatos sent Grant to a behavioral-rehabilitation facility at the end of last year, but he left the program early and returned home.
His parents told him he’d only be allowed to stay at the home if he cut ties with the model, according to investigators.
“Grant Amato initially agreed to the rules his father had set, but he didn’t think they were fair, because he felt that the Bulgarian female was his girlfriend and they had a relationship,” an arrest affidavit said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Prosecutors believe it was the family’s attempt to cut off the relationship that led to the murders.
“Grant fell in love with a woman named Silvie,” Assistant State Attorney Domenick Leo said in his closing arguments. “Not only did he fall in love with her, he became obsessed with her — to the point that she’s all that mattered.”
The family was slaughtered in their Florida home on Jan. 24. The prosecution believes that Margaret was killed shortly after 4:44 p.m. — the last time her computer was active. Then, prosecutors said, her husband was killed about a half hour later, when he came home from work. Finally, Cody was shot four hours later when he arrived at the home.
Grant Amato's attorney, Jeff Dowdy, argued, however, that the prosecution’s theory of the crime didn’t make sense.
“They’re just grasping and grasping, because their timeline doesn’t add up,” he said.
Cody’s girlfriend, Sloan Young, testified that Cody had spoken with his family members after the time that prosecutors believed the family was already dead, local station WKMG reports.
However, a neighbor testified that she heard gunshots that night around 8:30 or 9:30 p.m. — which would have matched prosecutor’s timeline of when Cody returned to the family’s Chuluota home.
Dowdy also argued that prosecutors had no physical evidence that linked Grant to the crime, and said crime scene investigators could have done more to process the scene the first day the bodies were found.
He said that when investigators found Grant, there wasn’t “a scintilla” of blood evidence on his client, and pointed out that the murder weapon was never recovered.
However, the prosecution said Grant had the motive — and that witness testimony, cellphone records and activity on his mother’s computer all pointed to him as the killer.
“There were three things that were missing from that home: Cody’s phone, the murder weapon and the defendant. No coincidence,” Leo said.
Prosecutors also have evidence, Leo said, that Grant used public Wi-Fi at a Publix to try and re-establish contact with Silvia shortly after the murders.
“His parents' and brother’s bodies aren’t even cold, and he’s already re-establishing, or trying to re-establish, contact with Silvie,” he said. “He was just waiting for her to say, ‘I love you, too. Come to Bulgaria. Come see me.’”
Grant will now face either the death penalty or life in prison for the crimes.
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