Nathan Carman, the Vermont man at the center of separate investigations into the murder of his wealthy grandfather and disappearance of his mother, tried Tuesday to paint his aunts as possible suspects in the slaying, an assertion their lawyer called “horrific nonsense.”
Carman, 24, representing himself during a probate court hearing in Concord, N.H., said his aunts had a “substantial motive” to murder his grandfather, John Chakalos, a developer who left behind a $44 million estate when he was shot to death in 2013 in Connecticut.
Carman also said, referring to allegations that he left his mother, Linda, behind on a sinking boat, “even if you were to believe that, that’s not a crime.”
Carman’s aunts, who are Chakalos’s daughters and Linda Carman’s sisters, are suing Nathan in the probate court to block him from collecting millions of dollars from the estate and to have him declared the murderer of their father. With Linda Carman missing and presumed dead, her share of the estate would eventually go to Nathan, her only child.
Daniel I. Small, a lawyer for the aunts, said after the hearing that Carman’s attempt to shift the focus to his aunts as suspects was “completely outrageous.”
“Nathan refused to take a lie detector,” Small said. “Everyone else in that family agreed. Nathan refused to cooperate with the police. Everyone else agreed.” In addition, Small said, the aunts have pledged to donate the disputed funds to charity if they prevail in court.
“Nathan wants the blood money,” Small said. “The family does not.”
Small said in a follow-up statement that the aunts passed lie detector tests, and that Carman “now claims that even answering the most basic questions about his ‘missing’ assault weapon would incriminate him.”
The hourlong hearing dealt in part with the aunts’ motion to compel Carman to produce documents related to a Sig Sauer semiautomatic rifle he bought in New Hampshire. It’s the same caliber as the weapon later used in Chakalos’s slaying.
Carman told Judge David King that he’s asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in regards to the gun because “Connecticut has some very harsh firearm laws” unrelated to the murder investigation.
Yet he also refused to concede that he bought the Sig Sauer, saying that while Connecticut investigators have asserted in court papers that “I purchased a particular firearm, they did not present any evidence to support that allegation.”
Small countered that a sworn police affidavit from 2014 “clearly states” Carman bought the firearm in New Hampshire, which Carman has never denied previously. Small said he’s “not sure why Connecticut gun laws would be an issue.”
In a follow-up phone interview, Small said that by raising concerns about Connecticut gun laws, Carman “basically admitted to carrying an assault rifle across state lines to Connecticut.”
Carman has repeatedly denied killing his grandfather and hasn’t been charged criminally in the case, though police have labeled him a person of interest.
Chakalos, 87, was found shot to death on Dec. 20, 2013, inside his Windsor, Conn., home. Nathan Carman had dinner with him the night before and was the last person known to see him alive, according to a police affidavit.
In September 2016, Carman and his mother set sail from Point Judith, R.I., for a fishing trip on his 31-foot aluminum boat, which sank during the trip. He was rescued a week later, but his mother hasn’t been found.
In a separate lawsuit pending in Rhode Island, the boat’s insurer alleges that Carman made suspicious alterations to his boat before he set out with his mother, with the intention of sinking the vessel.
During Tuesday’s hearing in New Hampshire, King also heard arguments on the aunts’ motion to compel Carman to provide information about the boat and his mother’s disappearance.
“Are we trying two murder cases here, or are we trying one?” Carman said during the hearing. He said it was “difficult for me to repeat the allegation” that he killed his mother, adding that officials still need to establish whether she’s deceased and a manner of death.
“To me, the petitioners’ argument that the disappearance of [my mother] relates to allegations that I killed my grandfather is incoherent,” he said.
From there, Carman pivoted to the lawsuit pending in Rhode Island, telling King the insurer is “alleging that I intentionally caused my boat to sink” and that the company “does not expressly allege that I committed a homicide.”
He later said that even if the court believed the allegation that he left his mother as the boat sank, that isn’t a crime.
Small argued that the federal judge presiding over the Rhode Island lawsuit has found that the investigations into Chakalos’s murder and the presumed death of Linda Carman are related.
In a ruling Friday in federal court in Rhode Island, US Magistrate Judge Patricia A. Sullivan wrote that “the Court has already ruled that discovery in this case may focus on facts bearing directly on an alleged scheme to procure a substantial inheritance by murdering, first, his grandfather and then, his mother through the intentional sinking of the vessel, because such facts bear directly on his intent in making the changes and repairs to the vessel that Plaintiffs allege resulted in its loss.”
Throughout Tuesday’s hearing in New Hampshire, a suited Carman spoke with a slow, at times halting cadence and made repeated references to the emotional toll the court cases have taken on him, telling King at one point, “I’m sorry, I’m trying to compose myself.”
He said his main concern in the New Hampshire lawsuit is not the money he stands to gain but “my reputation and seeing that I have a future going forward. . . . I’m very concerned about protecting my future.”
Small, the aunts’ lawyer, was unmoved after the hearing.
“If he’s worried about his reputation, why did he refuse to take a lie detector” or answer questions about the gun, Small said by phone. “It’s not the proceeding that’s ruining his reputation; it’s Nathan” that’s causing the damage.
King took the aunts’ motions under advisement and said he’ll issue a ruling as soon as possible.