SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - A jury found Grant Amato guilty in the murder of his father, mother and one of his brothers Wednesday night.
The penalty phase of the case begins Aug. 12
“We did the best we could with what we had,” Amato’s attorney Jeff Dowdy said.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors maintained that Amato, 30, killed his parents and older brother because of a dispute over his relationship with a Bulgarian online cam girl, and then staged the scene trying to make it look like a murder-suicide.
Attorneys for the state and the accused began presenting their closing arguments around 10:15 a.m. Wednesday. By 2 p.m., the jury had received instructions for its verdict ballots.
Amato faces the death penalty.
During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said there was no forced entry at the family’s home and that the evidence points to Amato.
"A random person just came in the house and killed three people, not very likely," Assistant State Attorney Deomenick Leo said.
Prosecutors tried to convince jurors that Amato killed his family inside their Chuluota home then staged a murder-suicide scene to make it appear as if his older brother killed his parents and then killed himself.
Prosecutors say Grant killed the witnesses (Margaret, Cody, and Chad). But digital forensics, expert testimony, and family members testifying helped to prove their case. #GrantAmato Trial — Jerry Askin (@JerryAskinNews6) July 31, 2019
They say witness testimony, cellphone records and activity on Amato’s mother’s laptop match their timeline of when the family was killed.
"There were three things that were missing from that home, Cody’s phone, the murder weapon and the defendant, no coincidence," Leo said.
Prosecutors said Amato had personal issues and was obsessed with an overseas cam girl who he sent more than $200,000 that he got from his family.
"He lost his job, he became depressed, has a contentious relationship with his father and his brother. He finds Silvie, and becomes consumed by her," Leo said.
Defense lawyers said the state has no physical proof that links Amato to the murders. They pointed out how investigators could’ve done more to process the home the first day the bodies were found. They also made the point that Amato was initially released from questioning after a seven-hour interrogation with investigators.
"They didn’t even come up with probable cause in this case and what did they do? They let him go," said Jeff Dowdy, deputy chief of the Seminole County Public Defender's Office.
On Tuesday, prosecutors used a firearms expert with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to try to prove their claim that the missing murder weapon may be tied to bullets they say Amato planted near his parents and brother after he killed them, in what they say was an attempt to stage a murder-suicide.
Richard Ruth said three guns were found inside the home, but they were not used in the killings.
When explaining the bullets that prosecutors say Amato placed, Ruth said, "Those projectiles were not fired from that firearm."
The defense questioned the expert's credibility in court and said the state has no proof.
Jennifer Sawyer said she lives near the Amato home and heard gunshots between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 24. Her statement matches the timeline of when prosecutors say Amato shot his brother, Cody Amato, after killing his parents inside the family's Chuluota home.
"I heard them one right after the other and I know that it was less than five shots fired," says Sawyer. "That was strange to hear gunfire at that time of night. It had been dark for hours."
Grant Amato watched in tears as the medical examiner showed pictures of his dead family members and explained their injuries.
The defense asked the judge for an acquittal and said the state has not provided any physical evidence. The judge denied that motion.
Cody Amato's girlfriend, Sloan Young, testified that Cody talked to his family members at the time that prosecutors said they were dead.
Detective said it appeared that someone in the home was trying to wipe Cody's iPhone around midnight on January 25th. Prosecutors say it was #GrantAmato after he killed his parents and older brother — Jerry Askin (@JerryAskinNews6) July 29, 2019
News 6 will be following the trial and will have updates on ClickOrlando.com.
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