Crime and Justice

Nathan Carman, accused of murdering his mother, will stay in jail while awaiting trial

Nathan Carman appears at a hearing in probate court in Connecticut in 2018. File photo by Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant

BURLINGTON — A federal judge on Tuesday denied Nathan Carman’s request to be released on bail while awaiting trial for fraud and murder.

In U.S. District Court in Burlington, Judge Geoffrey Crawford ordered that Carman, 28, of Vernon will stay in jail while awaiting his trial on charges of fraud and “murder on the high seas” of his mother, Linda Carman. She disappeared almost six years ago in what Nathan Carman contends was a boating accident while on a fishing trip off the coast of Rhode Island.

Prosecutors contend the 2016 boat “accident” was a murder cover-up, and Carman’s fraud charges involve an allegation that he killed his grandfather in Connecticut in 2013. Carman does not face murder charges related to his grandfather’s death. 

The fraud charge alleges that both killings were part of the same scheme, intended to collect millions in inheritance and insurance money. 

On May 11, Crawford had ordered that Carman be held without bail, believing he was a potential danger to the community and posed a significant risk of fleeing to avoid trial. If convicted of murdering his mother, Carman will face life in prison — which prosecutors wrote in a court filing was a compelling incentive to flee. 

Had his request for release been granted, Carman said he would offer his limited savings as cash bail, hand over his passport and consent to electronic monitoring while he awaited trial.

Federal prosecutors Nate Burris and Paul Van de Graaf, arguing at the courthouse on Tuesday, said Carman was unemployed, had no ties to his community, and had the monetary means to flee. They also argued Carman’s affinity for firearms posed a potential risk to public safety. 

Carman’s attorneys, Mary Nerino and Sara Puls, defended their client’s community ties, saying he was a regular church-goer, a customer at a local pizza place and was self-employed — buying and selling raw construction materials, flipping them for a higher price than he had paid.

Nerino contended many of the prosecutors’ arguments were potentially misleading and easily explainable. 

For example, prosecutors drew attention to the fact that Carman’s boat had the suspicious name “Out Foxed.” Nerino said Carman had bought the boat from a man whose last name was Fox, intending to flip it for a higher price.

In opposing Carman’s motion for pretrial release, prosecutors wrote that Carman had a copy of the Quran in his possession, but Nerino said that does not negate Carman’s relationship with his pastors or his church attendance, and contended prosecutors were offering details in an effort to “confuse the issues at hand.” 

The prosecutors also cited Carman’s mental health history, which includes various angry childhood outbursts, and statements from a consulting physician in a 2011 evaluation who said Carman likely had “some kind of psychotic phenomenon going on.” 

Despite that history, neither side requested a mental health evaluation for Carman. 

Puls called the claims of poor mental stability “outdated and irrelevant,” as all the incidents were from Carman’s childhood or high school at the latest. Puls said most of the incidents were typical childhood tantrums. 

Crawford agreed that Carman’s childhood outbursts were not a basis for denying bail, and said he did not see sufficient evidence to prove Carman had murdered his grandfather. However, he said the evidence that Carman murdered his mother is strong, and that alone is reason to keep Carman in custody until trial.

The judge also cited Carman’s lack of deep ties to his community, to family or to any local employer, cited an ongoing family feud over an inheritance, and found that Carman’s interest in guns indicated a potentially volatile situation. Based on the disappearance of Carman’s mother, others may be at risk as well, Crawford said, and the bail conditions could not alleviate the substantial risk of flight. 

Before Carman’s mother disappeared, Carman allegedly made several modifications to his boat, including the removal of the bulkhead and trimtabs. As the boat sank, Carman told investigators he called out in search of his mother once he was on an inflatable life raft. However, he failed to bring key pieces of safety equipment on their trip and did not activate his distress signals or radio for help, though he had the equipment onboard to do so, prosecutors said in charging Carman with his mother’s murder. 

His grandfather, John Chakalos, was killed with a 30-caliber automatic rifle. Prosecutors allege Carman had bought that very same model of gun just weeks before his grandfather’s slaying and had lied about the purchase later on. 

Carman’s grandfather, who supported Carman financially, had threatened to cut him off if he did not graduate from college. Prosecutors pointed out that Carman had failed many classes, proving he had no issue disappointing his grandfather, and they allege the murder was premeditated. Prosecutors said Carman was the last person to see Chakalos alive.

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Ella Ruehsen

About Ella

Ella is a student at the University of Vermont, where she is majoring in environmental studies and was recently elected editor in chief of the Vermont Cynic, the school’s independent student newspaper. She previously was a reporter and news editor at the Cynic and interned last summer at the Burlington Free Press.

Email: [email protected]

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