A 28-year-old Vermont man is accused of killing his grandfather to obtain trust fund money and later killing his mother while they were at sea for a purported fishing trip to access millions of dollars in inheritance, according to a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Nathan Carman, 28, has been charged with federal murder and fraud counts.
Federal prosecutors say Carman’s mother, Linda, disappeared during a 2016 fishing trip on her son’s boat, Chicken Pox, which he purposefully sank off Rhode Island.
Prosecutors alleged he rigged the boat so it would take on water, then lied to the Coast Guard and other law enforcement officials about his mother’s disappearance.
Three years earlier, Carman killed his grandfather John Chakalos by shooting him twice while he slept in his home in Windsor, Connecticut, prosecutors say.
“Both killings were part of a scheme to obtain money and property from the estate of John Chakalos and related family trusts,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont said in a statement Tuesday.
The federal public defender’s office in Vermont, which was representing Nathan Carman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Carman has consistently denied he had anything to do with his mother’s disappearance or his grandfather’s death.
Chakalos bequeathed a $42 million estate to his four adult daughters, including Linda Carman. Chakalos amassed tens of millions of dollars by building and renting nursing homes, prosecutors said.
Nathan Carman spent “significant time” with his grandfather in 2012 and 2013, according to the indictment. Chakalos, then 87, put $550,000 into his grandson’s bank accounts in that time, they said.
During the same period, the indictment alleges, Nathan Carman persuaded his mother to designate him as a beneficiary of her inheritance.
The so-called dynasty trust inheritance arrangement for Chakalos’ children was valued at $42 million, prosecutors said.
Nathan Carman, living in a New Hampshire home built by Chakalos, purchased the rifle used in his murder on Nov. 11, 2013, the indictment states.
The next month, he used it to kill his grandfather, prosecutors said.
“After Nathan Carman killed John Chakalos, and 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,” the indictment states.
Prosecutors said Nathan Carman spent the $550,000 Chakalos put in his accounts and, after his mother’s disappearance, sued in an unsuccessful attempt to collect $85,000 from an insurance policy that covered the Chicken Pox.
By 2016, he had moved to Vermont, where he was “low on funds” and mostly unemployed, the indictment said. That September, he arranged the fishing trip, it said.
Linda Carman arrived at his home after 11 p.m. Sept. 17, prosecutors said. Spending time on her son’s boat was her primary way of interacting with him, they said. She believed she’d be home by noon the next day, the indictment said.
Nathan Carman had altered the Chicken Pox “by removing two forward bulkheads and removing trim tabs from the transom of the hull,” the filing alleges.
The Coast Guard learned the Chicken Pox hadn’t returned to port in South Kingston, Rhode Island, on Sept. 18 and launched a search that continued through Sept. 24, prosecutors said.
The next day, the Orient Lucky, a China-based freighter that was about 115 nautical miles from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, pulled Nathan Carman from a life raft adrift in shipping lanes, authorities said.
He had packaged “emergency” food and water with him, they said.
But within a matter of days, authorities began questioning the boat’s sinking.
Officials searched Carman’s apartment but didn’t charge him in his mother’s disappearance until the indictment was filed May 2.
In a 2017 lawsuit, his aunts argued he should be considered a suspect in the disappearance, as well as in his grandfather’s death.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont described Linda Carman’s death as a “murder on the high seas.”
Formal counts in the unsealed indictment include mail fraud, wire fraud and the killing of Linda Carman “with malice aforethought.” If he is successfully prosecuted for her death, Nathan Carman could face life in prison. Each count related to fraud carries the possibility of 30 years behind bars.
He is expected to be arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Rutland, Vermont.