The Cam Model Addict Who Murdered His Whole Family

CBS / Paramount+
CBS / Paramount+

Grant Amato appeared, on the surface, to be living his dream. A 29-year-old college-educated native of Chuluota, Florida, he resided in his beautiful childhood home with his loving parents Chad and Margaret, as well as an older brother, Cody, whom he idolized and who apparently felt likewise about him. Grant and Cody loved guns and were studying to be nurse anesthetists, and they did everything together, including playing Airsoft, a tactical team-based shooting game in which participants pretend to be soldiers. Grant describes his sibling as “my angel on this Earth” and “literally my everything.” In most other respects, he was similarly blessed, and his fortunes seemed destined to keep rising as he made his way through the world.

At least, that is, until his career took a turn for the worse and he discovered a different, more preferable place to spend his every day, night, and dollar: the internet, where cam girls offered him the affection he desperately craved.

Director Colin Archdeacon’s three-part docuseries Ctrl+Alt+Desire (April 16, Paramount+) is, on the one hand, a cautionary tale about the dangers of seeking refuge from problems—especially loneliness—online. Just as chillingly, though, it’s a stark reminder that no matter the environment in which they’re raised, or the number of caring and encouraging figures they have by their side, disturbed (if not outright sociopathic) individuals are always at risk of turning to fraud, crime, and homicidal violence in order to address their particular needs. Grant was one of those people, a solitary and depressed narcissist who coveted attention and resented anyone who tried to thwart his chosen mode of achieving happiness. The results, ultimately, were tragic.

Grant made headlines in January 2019 when his mom, dad, and brother were discovered murdered in their home—a crime that Ctrl+Alt+Desire doesn’t fully detail until the beginning of its second episode. That’s because its premiere mainly focuses on Grant’s familial dynamics, solid upbringing, and downward spiral courtesy of two incidents: getting kicked out of nursing anesthesia school for an argument over an improper epidural, and being fired from a subsequent nursing job for administering unauthorized doses of Propofol to render patients quiet and docile at night. With his professional prospects in shambles, Grant retreated to his room and his computer monitors, where amidst his numerous boxes of anime-inspired toys, he streamed his gaming exploits in a vain attempt to make it as a Twitch sensation. His life truly transformed, however, on the day that he opted to check out, where he “met” a Bulgarian performer who went by AdySweet but whose real name was Silviya. According to Grant, it was love at first sight, and he quickly became obsessed.

Director Archdeacon spoke to Grant for four years via audio and video calls, and that copious material—along with police interrogation videos, online clips of Silviya, and interviews with lawyers, journalists, and additional cam models—forms the backbone of Ctrl+Alt+Desire, affording it an intimate POV as its subject is first questioned by police for his family’s execution-style slaying, and later prosecuted by the state, which pursued the death penalty. Grant’s defense was always incredibly weak; it was clear from the start that he was the only person with a motive, he had access to firearms, and he had been at increasingly tense odds with his relatives, who’d unproductively tried a variety of tough-love measures and rehab to alter his wayward course. By the time of the killings, Grant had spent approximately $200,000 on Silviya, including with his parents’ credit cards and fraudulent bank accounts that he’d opened in their names, and he was determined to continue what he was doing, regardless of what they (or therapists) said.

A photo including Micah Spayer as Grant Amato in the docuseries Ctrl+Alt+Desire on Paramount+

Micah Spayer as Grant Amato

CBS / Paramount+

The media naturally concentrated on Grant’s affair with Silviya because it was the tawdriest aspect of the case. Yet through conversations with cam girls, author Angela Jones, and others, Ctrl+Alt+Desire contextualizes Grant’s retreat into online realms as a means of fleeing his misery, and his fixation on Silviya as a manifestation of his overarching hunger for compassion and companionship. This is reasonably persuasive, if only part of the story, since Archdeacon also accurately paints Grant as a selfish egomaniac who was angry about his own self-generated failures (and the disappointment they bred in Chad, Margaret, and Cody), and who found in Silviya—and the cam community in which he was valued by other male members—an addictive degree of praise and validation. In this regard, sex was merely one element of his dynamic with Silviya, and while a couple of cam girls opine during interviews that they too sometimes run the risk of becoming emotionally involved with customers, the evidence on display here suggests that Silviya knew what was going on, and exploited it for personal gain.

The Girl Who Staged a Home Invasion to Kill Her Parents

Grant’s trial turns out to be less than dramatic, and following a guilty verdict that earns him life in prison without parole, Archdeacon convinces him to finally confess to the crimes—thus earning Ctrl+Alt+Desire its climactic bombshell. That admission, however, feels less like a revelation and more like another example of the murderer’s burning desire to remain in the spotlight, where he can continue the role-playing charades he perpetrated online with Silviya. To hear Grant praise himself for assassinating his family without them knowing what was happening—“Even in the process of doing something terrible, I’m trying to be as compassionate as possible”—is to get a genuine glimpse into his cold mind and heart. It also renders his preceding woe-is-me routine about his dad’s controlling nature, and his clan’s suffocating efforts to get him the help he obviously needed, as disgusting bullshit.

Despite its best efforts, Ctrl+Alt+Desire doesn’t get Silviya to sit down for a proper interview; the most it attains is a brief telephone call. Still, perhaps its bigger failing is affording Grant a docuseries platform in the first place, given that the insights he provides—into himself and the attraction of alternate online realities—are offset by the pleasure he clearly derives from once again receiving doting consideration from a media-filtered audience.

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