The 25-Year-Old Accused of Murdering His Mother and Grandfather Is On Trial—for Boat Insurance

Nathan Carman finally reached the witness stand, but it wasn't for murder.

by Susan Zalkind
Aug 23 2019, 5:22pm

Nathan Carman when he was rescued on his boat in 2017.

Nathan Carman is either a criminal mastermind, or the victim of a series of unfortunate, fatal events. His aunts say he shot his multimillionaire grandfather to death in 2013, and killed his mother on a fishing trip in 2016 to get a portion of the family’s $44 million estate. But 25-year-old Carman has so far eschewed criminal charges, let alone gone to criminal court.

Carman’s aunts, his missing mother’s three sisters, can’t seem to make a civil case stick either. A New Hampshire judge recently dismissed the aunts’ claims on the grounds that Carman’s grandfather was not truly resident of New Hampshire, and was using the Granite State as a tax haven, to avoid paying taxes in Connecticut, where he actually lived, and where he was ultimately killed, shot three times with a .308 caliber rifle, in part of a still open homicide case.

After a six year legal battle that depicts the inner workings of an upper-class New England family, which feels like something out of the show Revenge, what finally lured Carmen to a witness stand in Rhode Island’s federal courthouse Thursday, was an $85,000 boat insurance claim. Carman filed the claim one month after his 31-foot yacht, The Chicken Pox, sank, about 100 miles off the coast of Rhode Island in the tragic trip with his mother. Carman was rescued one week later in a life raft. His mother, Linda Carman, was never seen again.

National Liability & Fire Insurance Co. and the Boat Owners Association of the United States won’t cough up, claiming he sank the ship on purpose. If the insurance companies prevail, Carman’s testimony could fuel the criminal and civil cases circling around him. The aunts’ high-powered legal team who sat through the trial as spectators Thursday, were clearly hoping as much.

Robert Stein, a veteran New Hampshire attorney who specializes in probate law says this testimony, “could be another loose piece” that ultimately leads to a criminal or civil case against him.

Nancy Gertney, a Harvard Law professor and former federal judge, also says Carman’s testimony in the boat insurance trial “could be used in the homicide case” and handed over to a prosecutor. And Carman could have avoided all of this if he backed down from the $85,000 claim. But he didn’t.

The task of questioning him fell to admiral attorney David Farrell, who specializes exclusively in civil, maritime matters.

Farrell procured a series of nautical props for the showdown with Carman, including a lifesize model of the stern, dock ties, trim tabs, as well as a half dozen maps of the New England coast line. He then proceeded to produce a protractor, with which to inspect said maps, and asked Carman to mark where Carman first claimed the boat sank.

Carman, who rose from the witness box for the question, stood with his hands clasped behind his back, his head hovering above the map with Farrell, replied that he was not sure he could, “I’ve been deposed and depositioned so many times.”

The questioning was at first frustratingly circular, with the eloquent Carman insisting on exactitudes, and Farrell, a boat insurance attorney, focusing on navigation disputes by way of geometric formulas, “one minute of latitude equals one mile” and “the formula of a circle being pi [times] D.” Carman’s otherwise flat and unemotional in demeanor, came off as personal when he admitted he did not know the formula for a circle.

Farrell was surprised.

“You’re a genius, right Mr. Carman?”

“I have no idea,” Carman replied, claiming that the story about him being a genius came about when he put his 140 IQ on job applications, around the time he stopped working with his grandfather “after he passed.” Carman said his mother had him take the tests when he was a kid, and New Hampshire cops essentially teased him about it.

“If I wanted to find the circumference of a circle I’d go into Google and I’d ask ‘what is the circumference of a circle.’”

Carman says he is a victim of circumstances. He blames his grandfather’s unnamed mistress in the homicide, and says his mother’s death was a tragic accident. He claims he has been unfairly fingered in the crimes due to in part to the fact that he has Aspberger’s syndrome.

But to his aunts Carman is essentially a young Robert Durst. And Connecticut police say Carman is a “person of interest” in the Chakalos unsolved murder case. (Chakalos was killed by a .308 caliber weapon, but no murder weapon has ever been found. Carman purchased a Sig Sauer 716 Patrol .308 rifle prior to the shooting, but claims he has since lost the $3,000 rifle.)

Others have extended the theory further, noting his relative good health when he was found on the life raft, neither dehydrated or hyperthermic, seemingly in the opposite direction of the national tidal drift. It suggests a seemingly implausible theory, that he may not have even spent a week on a raft as he claimed, but was instead in hiding.

Farrell alluded to the theory that Carman's mother may not have been on the boat at all when it sank, a theory Carman flatly denied.

I’ve told you she was on board,” Carman said.

Carman was not able to swerve away from key components of the shipwreck case in court Thursday. In between the lengthy testimony on the workings of boat pumps, and math equations, Farrell painted a damning picture of Carman, increasing his insurance policy, and writing in inquiries in which he seemed to anticipate such a disaster, calling in repairmen and Coast Guards, for every and all trivial incidents, except his faulty repairs, that lead to the ship’s and likely his mother’s demise.

Carman insisted, “I did not bore a hole in my boat. Period.” But he admitted he did use machine tools on the holes he made, accidently, “on the existing hole” to roughen up the edges, and fill them with putty.

And then of course, Carman was forced to explain for the first time in a court of law, how he was able to make it off The Chicken Pox in a life raft, with a month’s worth of food, without ever laying eyes on his mother at all.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Murder Trial
Nathan Carman