A tearful Nathan Carman arrived at his mother’s memorial service bearing a bouquet of pink lilies, as well as a few choice words for the family members boycotting it. Six weeks earlier, Linda Carman had been lost at sea when a fishing trip went tragically wrong. Nathan, her only son, survived, but there were far more questions than answers about what had really happened, and Linda’s body had still not been found.
“I wish very much that our whole family could come together to pray for my mom,” Nathan, 22, told the barrage of reporters and news crews who had come to cover the service. “I wish desperately that my mom was rescued, and I hope she will be found.”
Earlier, Linda’s three sisters had issued a press statement, calling the service, organized by Nathan, “inappropriate and premature.” Police, meanwhile, were investigating how what should have been an enjoyable mother-son fishing trip had turned deadly.
“I wish desperately that my mom was rescued, and I hope she will be found.”
It was a late Saturday night in September 2016 when they set out from South Kingstown, Rhode Island, in Nathan’s boat, the Chicken Pox. Linda had celebrated her 54th birthday a few days earlier, and was looking forward to some quality time with her son.
When they didn’t return the following day as planned, the Coast Guard launched a search-and-rescue mission. But five days after their disappearance, it was called off, as chances of surviving that long in the hostile North Atlantic were minimal.
Then, two days later, Nathan was spotted by a commercial freighter in a red inflatable life raft 115 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, waving his arms to attract attention. He appeared grief-stricken but distant, saying his mother had been swept out to sea when their boat had suddenly capsized.
“There was a funny noise in the engine compartment,” he explained. “I looked and saw a lot of water … the boat just dropped out from under my feet. When I saw the life raft, I did not see my mom. Have you found her?”
Linda’s sisters didn’t buy their nephew’s story, perhaps because three years earlier Nathan had been the prime suspect in the execution-style murder of their über-rich father, John Chakalos. Now, with his mother gone, Nathan stood to inherit a $7 million slice of his grandfather’s vast fortune.
Today, Nathan Carman is in custody for the murder of his mother in the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility, in Rutland, Vermont. His bail hearing is scheduled for the coming weeks. Where did it all go wrong?
“A Time Bomb Waiting to Go Off”
Growing up, Nathan Carman had always been different. As a young child, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s, the autism-related disorder characterized by an above-average intellectual ability but few social skills. Although he had difficulties communicating, Nathan got good grades throughout high school, helped by his love of numbers and a laser focus on a single subject.
At Connecticut’s Middletown High School, Nathan was bullied and shunned by the other students. The ungainly six-foot-three-inch teenager favored camouflage hunting gear and wore oversize galoshes. Highly opinionated, he would snippily argue with his classmates and teachers if he disagreed with them.
But it was his passionate obsession with the Second Amendment that really scared his classmates. For Nathan preached that every American should be free to bear arms, including rocket launchers, grenades, and automatic weapons. After his grandfather’s death, neighbors in Vermont would tell police that Nathan was “a time bomb waiting to go off,” and that he had been nicknamed “murder boy.”
Now, with his mother gone, Nathan Carman stood to inherit a $7 million slice of his grandfather’s vast fortune.
Nathan’s grandfather John Chakalos was the child of Greek immigrants and made his fortune from real estate. Born in New Hampshire, he served in World War II as a paratrooper, always volunteering for the most dangerous missions. After several false starts, the born entrepreneur made tens of millions of dollars in the 1960s building convalescent homes and then renting them out. He married his high-school sweetheart, Rita, and they settled down in leafy Windsor, Connecticut, to raise a family.
Their four daughters, Elaine, Linda, Charlene, and Valerie, grew up in a small split-level house and were never spoiled. When Chakalos later built a large mansion on 82 acres in West Chesterfield, New Hampshire, he kept his modest Windsor home as a business office and often slept over.
By the early 90s, Linda, known as the family “rabble-rouser,” was living in California and married to a man named Clark Carman. Her father wanted her back in the family fold, dangling a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise as incentive. But when she and Clark, who was something of a drifter, moved back, Chakalos reneged on the offer, buying them a house in Middletown, Connecticut, instead.
Four years after Nathan was born, in 1994, his parents divorced. The adventurous Linda then traveled all over the world with her young son, including taking an R.V. trip to Alaska. But by the time Nathan became a teenager, their relationship was volatile, and he threw tantrums when he didn’t get his way.
And Nathan’s behavior could be downright scary. One Halloween, a neighbor called the police after the 15-year-old was seen giving out Ziploc bags full of fish guts to trick-or-treaters.
Then, in late 2010, Nathan’s world fell apart when his pet white Irish sport horse, Cruise, a gift from his grandfather, died of colic. “The only friend he had was his horse,” explained his father, who had stayed close to him. “Things went downhill from that point on.”
After Cruise died, Nathan fell into a deep depression and stopped talking to his mother. Eventually their sole means of communication was through handwritten notes.
Then Nathan’s already shaky foundations finally caved in, and after calling his school’s vice principal “Satan” and accusing the school secretary of being “an agent of the devil,” he was committed to New York’s Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center.
Family had always been important to John Chakalos, and in the early 2000s he created the Chakalos Family Dynasty Trust to distribute his estimated $44 million fortune to his four daughters. He appointed Linda’s sister Valerie as his estate executor.
One Halloween, a neighbor called the police after a 15-year-old Nathan was seen giving out Ziploc bags full of fish guts to trick-or-treaters.
Chakalos also set up two bank accounts that, after his death, would benefit Nathan. One, with $150,000, would put him through college. The other, containing $400,000, was in the names of Linda and Nathan Carman.
While he was in rehab, Nathan became even closer to his grandparents, who often visited with candy, reading material, and other presents. But he refused to see his mother and would cunningly play her off against his grandfather.
It was around 2012, after leaving rehab and graduating high school, that prosecutors believe Nathan first decided to murder his 87-year-old grandfather and his mother so he could become a millionaire. His cold and systematic scheme would be laid out in gory detail in a May 2022 indictment by the United States District Court for the District of Vermont.
Nathan began by presenting his grandfather’s trust attorney and financial adviser with a precise list of questions about his grandfather’s assets and how the Dynasty Trust worked. He started spending “a significant” amount of time with his grandfather, who allowed him to attend all his business meetings. Chakalos also paid Nathan’s personal expenses, including those for a truck and an apartment in Bloomfield, Connecticut.
Eventually, at his grandson’s urging, Chakalos persuaded Linda to designate Nathan as the beneficiary of her slice of the Dynasty Trust, and Nathan started putting his murderous plan into action.
In the first week of November 2013, Nathan obtained a New Hampshire driver’s license and registered his truck there, using his grandfather’s address. Five days later, he used the license to buy a Sig Sauer rifle at Shooters Outpost in Hooksett.
“On December 20, 2013, Nathan Carman murdered his grandfather [by] shooting him twice … while [he] slept,” read the indictment. “[Then] as part of his plan to cover up his involvement in that crime, Nathan Carman discarded his computer hard drive and the GPS unit that had been in his truck the night of the murder.”
John Chakalos’s bullet-riddled body was found by his eldest daughter, Elaine, who called the police. Just a month earlier, his beloved wife, Rita, had died of lung cancer. There was no sign of a break-in, and nothing was stolen. All the bullet casings had been carefully removed.
With Nathan being the last person to see his grandfather alive—at dinner the night before—police immediately zeroed in on him. He then lied about his whereabouts on the night of the murder, and why he was a few hours late meeting his mother for a charter fishing trip in Rhode Island.
As police C.S.I. investigators scoured the murder scene for evidence, Nathan spent the morning fishing with his mother. He refused to cooperate with the murder investigation, and it eventually went cold.
In July 2014, Windsor police submitted an arrest warrant for Nathan, but it was returned unsigned by the prosecutor the following day with a request for “further information.” Nathan was never charged. “[My grandfather] loved me very dearly,” Nathan told reporters at the time. “I was like a son to him; he was like a father to me.”
There was no sign of a break-in, and nothing was stolen. All the bullet casings had been carefully removed.
After his grandfather’s murder, Nathan received $550,000 from the various trusts and moved to Vermont. Over the next two years, he frittered away the money and never worked. In December 2015, he bought the Chicken Pox, a 31-foot stainless steel Downeast, insuring it with the National Liability & Fire Insurance Company.
When the money ran out, in the fall of 2016, Nathan initiated the next part of his plan. He arranged a fishing trip with his mother to Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, so he could kill her at sea. He then planned to report the sinking of the Chicken Pox and his mother’s disappearance as accidents.
Before the trip, Nathan removed two forward bulkheads and trim tabs from the transom of the hull, which helped stabilize the boat. This left one-and-a-quarter-inch-size holes near the waterline, which he filled with putty. He also hid his computer so law enforcement couldn’t examine it while he was away.
Nathan and Linda Carman set out in the Chicken Pox from Ram Point Marina in South Kingstown at 11:13 P.M. on Saturday, September 17, 2016. His mother had told friends she would be home before noon on Sunday.
“After leaving the marina, Nathan Carman killed his mother,” stated the indictment, “and eventually sank the Chicken Pox.”
After Linda’s disappearance, Nathan was never detained by police for questioning. Linda’s body has not been found.
One year later, Nathan filed an $85,000 insurance claim for the loss of the Chicken Pox, which was fought in court by the insurance company and eventually denied, due to his tampering with the boat.
“When I saw the life raft, I did not see my mom. Have you found her?”
His three aunts also filed a slayer’s petition in probate court in July 2017 to stop him from receiving the $7 million he now stood to inherit from his grandfather’s estate as his mother’s sole heir. They also asked the judge to formally declare that Nathan had killed them both.
“The last person to see both of these family members alive was Nathan Carman, John’s grandson and Linda’s son,” according to Boston attorney Dan Small, who is representing the sisters. “The details and evidence in the death of John and the disappearance of Linda all point to Nathan as the prime suspect.”
In May 2019, a New Hampshire probate judge dismissed the suit, ruling that Chakalos was actually a Connecticut resident, so the court had no jurisdiction. The sisters immediately appealed, and their lawsuit is still pending.
Then, three years later, on May 10, 2022, federal prosecutors unsealed an eight-count grand-jury indictment and arrested Nathan Carman. It charged him with his mother’s first-degree murder, alleging that he also killed his grandfather in cold blood.
“Both killings were part of a scheme to obtain money and property from the estate of John Chakalos and related family trusts,” said prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont, refusing to comment on why they had put the case before a grand jury after so long. At his arraignment, Nathan, now 28, pleaded not guilty to killing his mother and to multiple insurance- and family-fraud charges. He was not charged with killing his grandfather and made no comments at the time of his arrest.
His bail hearing had been scheduled for May 23, but was postponed for at least 90 days after the Federal Public Defender’s Office, which is representing him, sought an indefinite postponement to conduct its own investigation. Later, at a status conference, his defense team told a federal judge that Nathan is competent to stand trial.
On July 6, Nathan’s federal public defender filed a motion calling the evidence “tenuous at best,” and asking for a federal court to release Nathan on bail until trial. If convicted, Nathan faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
During the insurance company’s August 2019 civil-court action challenging Nathan’s $85,000 claim for the loss of the Chicken Pox, the insurer’s attorney asked Nathan if he had shouted out a warning to his mother before the boat sank. “I treated my mother like a passenger,” Nathan replied. “She was more kind of the problem than the solution.”
John Glatt is a true-crime author. His latest book, Golden Boy: A Murder Among the Manhattan Elite, is out now