A ‘miracle’ rescue, two family murder cases and a jail cell death: Nathan Carman’s saga of greed and lies

Nathan Carman was rescued after spending a week at sea in a life raft (AP)
Nathan Carman was rescued after spending a week at sea in a life raft (AP)

Nathan Carman’s rescue from an inflatable life raft 200 kms off the coast of Cape Cod in 2016 after spending eight days adrift in the North Atlantic Ocean was hailed as a miracle.

The then 22-year-old and his mother Linda Carman had set off for an overnight fishing trip from Rhode Island on 17 September that year to try to mend their fractured relationship.

She was never heard from again, and authorities quickly realised something about his extraordinary tale of survival wasn’t adding up.

It would take prosecutors nearly six years to charge Nathan with her murder, and also name him as a prime suspect in the 2013 murder of his grandfather John Chakalos.

The 29-year-old was arrested last May and pleaded not guilty to murder and fraud charges. He had been due to stand trial in October.

Prosecutors alleged he had been plotting for more than a decade to claim his grandfather’s $40m estate, and stood to inherit millions with both elder family members dead.

On Thursday morning, he was found “unresponsive” in his cell in Cheshire County Jail in Keene, New Hampshire. He was pronounced dead about 40 minutes later, an official said.

Who was Nathan Carman?

Nathan Carman grew up in Connecticut, the only child of Clark and Linda Carman.

The family had a web of “strenuous and often combative relationships”, according to a 2018 New York article. Linda Carman had suffered from depression, and reportedly had struggled with a gambling addiction.

Nathan was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, and underwent years of psychiatriac analysis and pharmaceutical treatment, according to a 2022 investigation by Air Mail.

He was described by those close to him as an “angry, wayward, unpredictable” child, who “matured without empathy, or recognition of the reality of anyone” other then himself, according to the article.

His mother, the second of four daughters, separated from Clark Carman and struggled to maintain a harmonious relationship with Nathan.

Nathan Carman was accused of killing his millionaire grandfather and his mother in an attempt to claim an inheritance (AP)
Nathan Carman was accused of killing his millionaire grandfather and his mother in an attempt to claim an inheritance (AP)

Prosecutors said they would go on fishing trips to try to mend the fractured bond.

In spite of this, he had a good relationship with his grandfather, who he considered his “best friend”, Nathan’s lawyers have said.

After finishing high school in 2012, Nathan Carman enrolled in community college but failed to complete most of his courses.

He then began showing an interest in his grandfather’s businesses and attended several meetings with him in 2012 and 2013, according to prosecutors.

During this period, his grandfather convinced Linda Carman to designate her son as a beneficiary of her trust.

Chakalos also paid for his grandson’s personal expenses, funding the purchase of a truck and an apartment, and a white Irish Sport horse named Cruise.

Killing of John Chakalos

John Chakalos was found dead at the age of 87 from gunshot wounds in his home in Windsor, Connecticut, on 20 December 2013, one month after his wife of 59 years Rita had passed away from cancer.

Chakalos had made an estimated $40m fortune in real estate, primarily from building and renting luxury nursing homes, and continued to work right up until the day he died, according to an obituary.

Even after amassing enormous wealth, he and his wife continued to live in the modest home where they had raised their daughters and lived for much of their married lives.

The obituary stated that Chakalos had “showered his grandchildren, nieces and nephews with paternal love”. His motto was “without family you’ve got nothing”.

John Chalakos was shot dead as he slept in his home in Connecticut in 2013. His grandson Nathan Carman was suspected of being responsible (Carmen Community Funeral Home)
John Chalakos was shot dead as he slept in his home in Connecticut in 2013. His grandson Nathan Carman was suspected of being responsible (Carmen Community Funeral Home)

However, prosecutors believed his then 19-year-old grandson was secretly plotting to murder him and claim his fortune.

Carman was never charged over his grandfather’s death. But authorities laid out in detail in a 2022 indictment how they believed he had carried out the killing.

Authorities said that Nathan purchased a Sig Sauer rifle about a year before the shooting.

They alleged that he drove from his apartment in Bloomfield, Connecticut, to his grandfather’s home at about 3am and shot him twice in the head while he slept.

Carman then discarded his computer hard drive and a GPS unit in his truck, they stated, preventing them from tracing his movements and plans.

He received $550,000 after his grandfather’s death. In 2014, he moved to Vernon, Vermont, and by 2016, had allegedly squandered most of his inheritance.

Linda Carman’s mysterious death

In 2015, Nathan Carman purchased a 31-foot fishing boat, the Chicken Pox, using his newfound wealth from his grandfather’s death.

Prosecutors stated that fishing had been a way for Nathan and Linda Carman to get together, and put aside their differences.

In September 2016, Nathan arranged to go on a fishing trip with his mother around Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island.

They left from Ram Point Marina in South Kingston, Rhode Island, late on the evening of 17 September, and Linda told friends they would return by noon the next day.

Prosecutors say that prior to the departure, Nathan removed parts of the engine and a part of the hull that stabilises the boat.

Nathan Carmen's mother Linda (WTNH News8 / Youtube screengrab)
Nathan Carmen's mother Linda (WTNH News8 / Youtube screengrab)

At some point soon after departing, he murdered his mother and deliberately sank the boat, prosecutors alleged.

The US Coastguard was notified that the boat was missing on 18 September, and mounted an extensive search and rescue effort.

On 25 September, Nathan Carman was found floating on an inflatable life raft by the Orient Lucky commercial boat 200kms off the coast of Cape Cod.

The then 22-year-old would later tell investigators that he had noticed the engine making unusual noises on the day he had set off, and the Chicken Pox started taking on water.

He said he saw his mother in the cockpit, and grabbed three bags containing food, flares and life jackets. But when he looked back, his mother was no longer there.

The unlikely survival tale set off a media frenzy as outlets tried to secure interviews with the survivor and the ship’s captain.

“I was yelling, ‘Mom! Mom!” Nathan Carman said in an interview with the Associated Press describing the sinking. “I loved my mother and my mother loved me.”

The Hartford Courant reported at the time that police were investigating Nathan Carman for knowingly operating an unsafe vessel and putting his mother's life in danger.

Police obtained a search warrant for his Vermont home, and found Nathan had removed his computer prior to leaving.

When asked about the police search, he told the AP: “I don’t know what to make of people being suspicious. I have enough to deal with.”

Arrest and death

In 2019, Chakalos’ three surviving daughters filed a lawsuit in New Hampshire seeking to block Carman from receiving any more of his grandfather’s inheritance.

They publicly accused him of involvement in his mother’s death.

The case was dismissed after a judge ruled that Chakalos was not a New Hampshire resident. It was later refiled in Connecticut and was still pending at the time of his death.

In May 2022, Carman was charged with “murder on the high seas” by US attorneys in Vermont. He was also charged with insurance fraud, relating to an attempt to claim $85,000 for the loss of the Chicken Pox.

Carman leaves federal court in Providence, Rhode Island, in August 2019 (Associated Press)
Carman leaves federal court in Providence, Rhode Island, in August 2019 (Associated Press)

Authorities said his arrest was the culmination of a multi-year investigation conducted by the FBI, the US Coast Guard, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Connecticut State Police, the Windsor Police Department in Connecticut, and the South Kingstown Police Department in Rhode Island.

Carman denied the charges and was ordered to be held in custody pending the trial.

On Thursday morning, he was found “unresponsive” in his cell at the Cheshire County Jail and was pronounced dead soon after, according to the CT Insider.

A cause of death has not yet been released, and police are investigating.

Carman’s attorney Martin Minnella told the Associated Press that he had been in good spirits when they spoke on Wednesday, and they had been due to meet again on Thursday.

“It’s just a tragedy, a tragedy.”

Carman’s three aunts issued a statement to the AP saying they were “deeply saddened” by his death.

“While we process this shocking news and its impact on the tragic events surrounding the last several years we ask for your understanding and respect relative to our privacy,” they said through a lawyer.