John Chakalos and Linda Carman: Unseaworthy

This is Part Two of a three part series.

Nathan Carman was 23-years old when his boat the Chicken Pox sank during a fishing trip with his mom off the coast of Rhode Island. Nathan was rescued a week later – a miraculous recovery by a freight ship that just happened to be in the right place at the right time, but his mother, Linda Carman, was never found.

Every detail of the sinking boat, the extensive week-long search, and the incredible rescue of Nathan after that search was called off made for a massive story in local and national media. But it only got more compelling when it was learned that Nathan was the grandson and Linda the daughter of wealthy real estate developer John Chakalos, whose 2013 shooting death remained unsolved when the tragedy occurred at sea.

And then a stunning fact was made public – Nathan Carman was a suspect in the murder of his own grandfather. 

This is part two of three of a deep dive into the stories of John Chakalos and Linda Carman. If you haven’t already, go back one episode and start there for the essential background on these cases. 

Who is Nathan Carman? Could he be responsible for the death of his grandfather? Did Nathan intentionally sink his boat with his mother aboard? And why?

The cases of John Chakalos and Linda Carman are active and on-going with developments as recent as early May 2022. In the third and final part of this story on Dark Downeast, you’ll hear the details of the investigation into John Chakalos’ murder that centered on Nathan Carman. The motive, the opportunity, the evidence, and finally, an arrest.

About Nathan Carman

Nathan Carman was living in Vermont when his boat sank, but he grew up and went to high school in Middletown, Connecticut. His parents filed for divorce in 1998 and his father eventually moved across the country to California, so Nathan was largely in his mother’s care for his teenage years.

Nathan had social challenges in school which were attributed to Asperger’s Syndrome, a diagnosis that is no longer separated from Autism Spectrum Disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, the diagnosis was generally thought to be on the mild end of the autism spectrum disorder. It is characterized by problems with social interaction and communication, among other behaviors, which was the case for Nathan, according to his family and those who knew him in high school. 

I will only be discussing specific incidents of Nathan’s history to the extent it was mentioned in official investigative documents. In a Search and Seizure Warrant filed in July of 2014, it’s stated that investigators learned Nathan had “several episodes” where he got violent when his coping mechanisms were challenged. The affidavit also says that police learned during interviews with family members that he held another child hostage with a knife when he was a child himself. 

In more general terms, Nathan’s father told Boston Globe reporters that Nathan despised his diagnosis and the way it set him apart, “The main thing is the label – autism. That drives him crazy. He’s so functional.” His father also said that Nathan was isolated from many of his peers and didn’t have any close friends. Nathan’s best connection was with his horse, Cruise. But in 2011 when Nathan was 17-years old, Cruise passed away leaving Nathan in crisis.

One night in August 2011, he told his father he planned to get up in the morning and ride his bike to Westbrook, Connecticut to do some fishing. Nathan never returned home from that supposed fishing trip. His parents reported him missing and the search for Nathan began. 

Several days later, Nathan turned up in Virginia when a suspicious person was reported lingering outside a vacant store – it was Nathan Carman. According to the Hartford Courant, Nathan told the deputy who picked him up that he was looking for a safe place to sleep before he rode to Virginia on a moped he’d purchased after taking a bus to Virginia. 

Nathan initially gave the deputy a false date of birth and home state, but Nathan was carrying his social security card at the time which provided the deputy with accurate information. When the deputy put Nathan’s name into the National Crime Information Center database, NCIC, he popped up as a missing person. His parents drove to Virginia to pick him up soon after. Reports say that Nathan also had nearly $4000 in cash and two pictures of himself with his horse, Cruise, on him at the time.

Linda and Nathan

Nathan’s father, Earle Clark Carman, told the Boston Globe in 2016 that Linda was a doting mother who took great care of their son and sought the services he needed, even when Nathan didn’t appreciate the help. 

In an online forum for people seeking answers to questions about mental health, a woman presumed to be Linda Carman posted seeking advice for her son. The April 2011 post noted her son had “paranoid delusions and religious idiocy” and that Nathan refused his medication. She also wrote that Nathan was admitted to a rehabilitation hospital for psychiatric treatment, but things got complicated. 

In addition to his mother, Nathan’s grandfather John Chakalos appeared to be quite involved in Nathan’s life. Linda and John sometimes disagreed on the methods of treatment for Nathan. When Nathan was hospitalized for psychiatric care, their disagreements reached a boiling point. 

Linda said in her post on that forum in April 2011 that her son would let his grandparents visit him in the hospital for hours on end, but wouldn’t see her. Linda wrote in the post, “His grandfather has insisted for 17 years that my son belongs to him and all his problems are a result of me, his mother.”

According to reporting by Shelley Murphy and Evan Allen for the Boston Globe, Linda and her father, John Chakalos, got into a physical altercation at the hospital where Nathan was receiving treatment. Linda was arrested but the charges were later dropped.

When Nathan was 18-years old, he packed up and moved out of his mother Linda’s house. He told her that his grandfather gave him money and he’d rented an apartment a few blocks away. About a year after Nathan’s grandfather was shot and killed, Nathan moved further away to Vermont, but Linda maintained a relationship with her son through their shared love of fishing. 

The pair traveled far and wide, chasing both salt and freshwater fish across Canada and the United States. But even when fishing wasn’t the main focus, it appeared Linda and Nate still liked to take trips together. They planned to tour the Galapagos Islands in December of 2016, two months after Nathan’s boat sank.

Episode Source Material

Court Documents Referenced and Cited

  • Search Warrant Affidavit by Detective Christopher Iovene, Middletown Police Department and Detective Sergeant William Freeman, Windsor Police Department, July 18, 2014

  • Examination Under Oath of Nathan Carman, December 16, 2016