Update: Man charged with killing mom at sea left note before his death

By Mike Donoghue, Vermont News First

BURLINGTON — Nathan Carman of Vernon, who has been facing federal charges of murder of his mother on the high seas and multiple swindles, is dead, apparently taking his own life.

Carman was found dead in his cell at the Cheshire County Jail in Keene, N.H. about 2:45 a.m. Thursday morning, officials said.  He was housed in a single cell, they said.

One of his defense lawyers said he was told Carman had left them a note.

“We believe that Mr. Carman left us a note that we look forward to receiving and trying to make some sense of a very tragic situation,” Connecticut lawyer David X. Sullivan said during an afternoon news conference.

He said he had spoken to Carman on Wednesday.

“I spoke to him last night for an hour.  He was in fine spirits.  We were very encouraged.  We had action items that we were going to address today and the plan was to speak to him this afternoon.  Something happened last night,” Sullivan told reporters.

Chief Federal Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford granted a motion Thursday morning from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont to dismiss all charges against Carman after prosecutors learned earlier in the day the defendant was dead.

The one paragraph filing said the office had been notified by the U.S. Marshals Service that Carman was dead.   The request by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nate Burris and Paul J. Van de Graaf did not elaborate.

Vermont News First learned early Thursday morning that Carman, 29, reportedly had taken his own life.

An investigation is underway by the Keene, N.H. Police, but the lead detective said there was nothing to report on Thursday.  

A spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Nikolas “Kolo” Kerest in Vermont said his office would have nothing to add to the motion that asked the presiding judge to dismiss the indictment. Fabienne Boisvert-Defazio referred questions to the U.S. Marshals Service in Burlington, which issued a brief statement before the news conference Thursday afternoon confirming Carman’s death.

Keene Police Detective Lt. Joel Chidester, the lead investigator, said he would withhold comment about the case until New Hampshire’s Chief Medical Examiner files a report in a few weeks.  He said questions should be directed to the U.S. Attorney or U.S. Marshal in Vermont. 

Carman was charged with killing Linda Carman, his mother, on Sept. 17 and 18, 2016 “willfully, deliberately, maliciously, and with premeditation.”  The homicide happened “within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,” the indictment said.

Defense Attorney Martin J. Minnella of Middlebury, Conn. said he was only told Carman was dead and was given no details.  He said he is waiting for more answers.

“We are heartbroken,” he told Vermont News First.

Sullivan and Minnella said they were alerted about Burris and Van de Graaf a few hours after the death.

Crawford had set the trial for Oct. 10 to 27 in Rutland. He had scheduled a hearing for July 12 to consider 5 pending motions filed by the defense.

Minnella said he had rented housing in Rutland for a month.  He said Caman and the defense team were looking forward to the trial to try to clear his name.  They had lined up nationally recognized experts to attack the government’s case.

Minnella and Sullivan said they believed Carman would be cleared. 

Carman also had been facing three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and one count of fraud for falsely claiming the sinking of his boat the “Chicken Pox.”

The indictment also maintains Nathan Carman killed his grandfather, John Chakalos, as he slept at his home in Windsor, Conn. on Dec. 20, 2013 as part of a scheme to obtain money and property from his estate.  Chakalos was shot twice.

Nobody has been charged with the Chakalos homicide.

Nathan Carman bought a Sig Sauer rifle at Shooter’s Outpost in Hookset, N.H. on Nov. 11, 2013 and that it was used as part of inheritance scam that covered nearly a decade, prosecutors and the indictment spell out.

After Chakalos’ death, Carman received $550,000 as a beneficiary from two bank accounts that his grandfather had set up – payable upon his death.

Carman moved to Vernon in 2014 from an apartment in Bloomfield, Conn.  He was unemployed much of the time.  Carman became low on funds by the fall of 2016, according to prosecutors.

That is when authorities said a death plan was developed to take his mother fishing near Block Island, R.I. and manipulated the boat, the Chicken Pox, so he could get it to sink.  Carman was found adrift in an inflatable raft 8 days later.  The body of his mother was never recovered.

Carman was arrested May 10, 2022 at his Windham County home and arraigned the next day in U. S. District Court in Rutland.  He pleaded not guilty to the 8-count federal indictment.

Crawford later ordered Carman detained pending trial.

Veteran Vermont defense lawyer Robert Katims had been the local counsel as part of the defense team until a few weeks ago.  He was ending his law practice on May 31 because he had been confirmed as a Vermont Superior Court judge.  No replacement counsel in Vermont had been named.

The U.S. Marshals Service does not own or operate detention facilities but partners with state and local governments through about 1,100 intergovernmental agreements to house some federal prisoners.  Most sentenced prisoners and some pre-trial detainees are housed in facilities operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The Marshals Service in Vermont does contract with the state of Vermont Department of Corrections for a limited number of federal prisoners to be held in pre-trial detention.  The USMS in Vermont also contracts with nearby out-of-state facilities including Cheshire County in Keene and the Essex County Jail in New York.

Categories: Crime