Five years ago, after 17-year-old Nathan Carman was admitted to a Connecticut hospital for psychiatric treatment following the death of his beloved horse, a fight between his mother and his wealthy grandfather broke out in the waiting room.
The family clash centered on money, according to a police report and an attorney involved in the case, and on “who was going to make decisions on the care of Nathan.”
Two years later, Carman’s grandfather, John Chakalos, was shot and killed in his Connecticut home, a case that remains unsolved.
And this month, his mother, Linda Carman, 54, was lost at sea after an ill-fated fishing voyage with her son, and is presumed dead.
Nathan Carman, now 22, stands at the center of both mysteries, the last known person to see both family members alive.
On Thursday, police in the Rhode Island community where Nathan Carman and his mother set sail Sept. 17 said they are working with federal law enforcement, along with authorities in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, to investigate the circumstances of Linda Carman’s disappearance.
Also Thursday night, Middletown, Conn., police Sgt. Dave Fuchs confirmed that officers had searched Linda Carman’s home earlier in the evening. Fuchs had no information about what, if anything, police recovered or why the search was conducted.
Investigators say they believe Carman made repairs on his 31-foot aluminum boat, the Chicken Pox, that may have made it unsafe. Carman told authorities the boat sank suddenly while he and his mother fished about 100 miles offshore. He was found floating on a life raft eight days later, and said he never saw his mother as the boat foundered.
In an interview with the Globe Wednesday, Carman said he believed that the boat was seaworthy and that he was grief-stricken over his mother’s death. He also denied any involvement in the death of his grandfather, who left behind a $44 million estate that went to the grandfather’s children, including Carman’s mother, Linda.
Carman was identified in a police affidavit as a suspect in his grandfather’s death, but was not charged.
The April 2011 fight between Linda Carman and her father, at Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital in Hartford, erupted when Chakalos offered a job to Carman’s unemployed husband, Earle Clark Carman, he told police. When Carman refused, Chakalos told the couple he would no longer support them, and said the only reason he had been giving them money was “because he loves his grandson,” authorities said.
Chakalos said Linda Carman began yelling profanities, blocked the waiting room doorway when he tried to leave the room, then repeatedly punched him in the head and scratched his face and kicked him. When Carman’s husband tried to pull her off, she struck him in the mouth, according to the report.
Linda Carman told police her father had pushed her, triggering the altercation.
“My father is worth $300 million and I want my share,” Linda Carman told police. “He is not going to cut me off. I need the money.”
Linda Carman was charged with assault on an elderly person and breach of the peace. The charges were dropped in July 2011 after Chakalos said he didn’t want his daughter prosecuted, said Hartford attorney Gerald Klein, who represented Carman.
According to authorities, Carman has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, and has faced many struggles. Carman was bullied, his mother told the Hartford Courant in 2011, but had forged a close bond with his horse, Cruise.
Carman was an honor roll student in high school, and volunteered at a soup kitchen, according to workers there.
“All I knew from Linda was that he was a very intelligent kid,” Klein said. “But with this Asperger’s, he had very limited social skills and was unable to communicate effectively.”
In August 2011, Nathan Carman ran away from his Connecticut home He was discovered four days later in Virginia, carrying two framed photographs of himself and his horse, according to newspaper reports. He had bought a moped, had more than $4,000, and told officials he was on his way to Florida.
Klein said he was contacted again by Linda Carman after Chakalos was shot to death in his Windsor, Conn., home in December 2013. She sought his advice because police had questioned her and her son about the slaying and wanted her to take a polygraph. He said he advised against it, but she took it and passed.
When police began focusing on Nathan Carman as a possible suspect, Klein said, Linda Carman told him her son had been fishing with her at the time of the slaying.
“She was adamant that he couldn’t have been involved because he and the grandfather were very close,” Klein said.
A 2014 affidavit filed in support of a search warrant as part of an investigation into the killing shows that Nathan Carman had dinner with his grandfather the night before his body was found.
Linda Carman told police her son did not meet her hours later as planned, and did not answer his phone, the affidavit said.
Nathan Carman threw away the hard drive of his computer as well as a GPS unit, the affidavit said. He was the only person in the family who knew where his grandfather kept his guns, and when officers searched his home, they found a shotgun and ammunition.
Later, investigators learned that Carman had purchased a rifle in New Hampshire that was the same caliber as the weapon used in the slaying, but he had never told police. He declined to take a polygraph.
The investigation into the 2013 killing is ongoing, and Nathan Carman remains a “person of interest,” Windsor police captain Thomas LePore said this week.
In Rhode Island, Narragansett Harbormaster Kevin Connors said the case has been the subject of constant speculation.
“I’m sure the writers of ‘Law and Order’ right now are working on a television show,” he said. “There’s nobody in town or on the docks that doesn’t have something to say about it.”
He said it is rare for someone leaving from the Point Judith area to go as far out to sea as Carman said he and his mother went. Hewas rescued about 115 miles off Martha’s Vineyard.
But Connors, who was involved in the initial search for the Carmans, said he does not believe the boat repairs Nathan Carman is said to have made would cause an immediate safety issue.
Investigators were told Carman removed trim tabs from his boat, records show. Trim tabs help with fuel efficiency and keep a boat from listing.
Removing them is unusual, but not inherently dangerous, said Gloucester Harbormaster Thomas Ciarametaro.
Ciarametaro said trim tabs are bolted on, so a boat owner would want to make sure the holes were filled securely to prevent leaks.
Carman filled the holes on his boat with a “marine-type adhesive,” according to court records. Ciarametaro said such substances are strong and reliable, but that he would use additional material to shore up his vessel.Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Shelley Murphy can be reached at email@example.com. Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.