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Man accused of killing parents, brother admits concocting false life in letter

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 4/15/2019 By Michael Williams, Jeff Weiner and Gal Tziperman Lotan, Orlando Sentinel
a man and a woman sitting in a chair: Grant Amato, charged with killing his parents and brother in January, appears at a bond hearing in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Wednesday, March 27, 2019. He was denied bond, Wednesday. © Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS Grant Amato, charged with killing his parents and brother in January, appears at a bond hearing in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Wednesday, March 27, 2019. He was denied bond, Wednesday.

ORLANDO, Fla. — In a typed letter addressed to six friends, Grant Amato admitted that the life he had presented to them was a lie.

He didn’t drive a BMW; he drove a Honda Accord. He lived at home with his parents and brother, not by himself. And he was not a professional gamer — he was a former nurse who had been fired from his job at a hospital after he was accused of stealing medicine.

Amato, 29, described the anger he felt toward his family after they forced him to undergo treatment for sex and internet addiction at a rehabilitation clinic in Fort Lauderdale. Amato had stolen more than $200,000 from his family to pay for chats with a Bulgarian woman named Silvie he had met on the adult website myfreecams.com.

The letter was part of several hundred pages of documents and hours of audio and video interviews released by prosecutors Monday morning. Grant Amato is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his parents and brother, whose bodies were discovered in their Chuluota home Jan. 25.

Prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty.

The letter is not dated, but was completed sometime after he was released from the clinic Jan. 9. It’s not clear whether his family had already been killed when the letter was written.

In it, Grant Amato called his father, Chad Amato, “controlling and abusive,” said his mother, Margaret Anne Amato was “simply around for security,” and described his brother, Cody Amato, as “also controlling and does not understand how I could care from someone as much as I cared for Silvie.”

Amato wrote of being despondent over his loss of contact with Silvie. His family ordered him to stop talking with her if he wanted to continue living in the home, but authorities said Chad Amato discovered his son had violated the ultimatum, which led him to kick Grant Amato out in the hours before the family was killed.

“I hate myself for what I did and I hate the thought of never getting to be with her again,” Amato said in the letter. “After everything that I gave and everything that I tried to do with her … I just can’t comprehend being without her.”

Amato said, while he was at the clinic, his family had “hacked” into his computer and gained access to his phone records and “personal things related to Silvie.”

“Seeing her be able to be so happy without me in her life is something I hope you guys never have to (live) through,” he said. “It is a feeling that rips your heart out and makes you realize how pointless everything is without her.”

“It makes you give up on life as I have without her,” he said.

Among the records were reports from deputies involved in the case, including those who discovered the bodies of the Amatos and others who spoke to friends and neighbors of the family.

The first deputy to arrive at the home described using his knife to open a rear door. He entered and soon found Cody and Grant’s father, Chad Amato, lying bloodied on the floor of the kitchen, a semi-automatic handgun holstered on his right hip. The holster was a cross-draw holster, meaning somebody who is right-handed would have to wear the holster on their left side to draw the firearm.

Family members said Chad Amato was right-handed, and normally didn’t wear the gun around the home.

Cody was found lying in a doorway in a “semi-fetal position,” according to an investigative report. He was wearing his nursing scrubs and a handgun lay about 5 feet from his body. Margaret Amato’s body was found seated at a chair in the home’s office, slumped over the desk, her head resting on a computer keyboard, a deputy reported. Family pictures were on her desk and her sons’ graduation photos were spread along nearby shelves.

The investigative report says deputies also found a hydroponic marijuana-growing system and several containers with marijuana in the master bedroom.

A close friend of the brothers told investigators that he had gone on a trip with them to Japan in December. Grant, the friend said, was “battling depression” during the trip. The day they were supposed to return to the U.S., Grant Amato “went missing for a few hours because he did not want to return home,” the friend told deputies.

Deputies also talked to Grant Amato’s aunt and uncle, with whom he stayed for a period in December after a “blow up” with his father, according to the report. They said they hid their weapons while Grant Amato was in their home at the urging of his parents, who feared he was suicidal and would harm himself. “Much later,” they discovered that he had used their credit card without permission while living in their home to use on the same website where he met the Bulgarian woman, according to a synopsis of their statement to deputies.

Meanwhile, Chad Amato had taken out a second mortgage on his home to pay for Grant Amato’s legal expenses and debts, the relatives told detectives. When Chad discovered Grant Amato was in the process of taking out a line of credit in his name without permission, they said Chad Amato allowed the application to proceed “because he did not want Grant to get in trouble for fraud and wished to protect him.”

A co-worker of Chad Amato’s at CVS Health said he worked two jobs and was “very proud” of his sons. Chad and Margaret Amato planned to work a few more years before retiring to Tennessee, the colleague said. She described noticing that Chad was tired and stressed from working two jobs and dealing with his son’s issues.

Amato’s attorneys argue that no physical evidence ties him to the killings. He was denied bond during a hearing in March, but he will appear in court again April 25 to determine whether he is eligible for pretrial release.

Amato has pleaded not guilty to the killings.

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©2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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