Survivor in mysterious boat accident is also ‘person of interest’ in grandfather’s unsolved murder, police say

It was not unusual for 22-year-old Nathan Carman and his mother, Linda, to go on long fishing trips. The pair set out for a two-day excursion from Rhode Island aboard a 32-foot boat, Chicken Pox, on Sept. 17. The next day, Carman heard a strange sound coming from the boat’s engine, he told Coast Guard officials. Water began to flood into the aluminum fishing boat. Carman grabbed bags of food, flares and other survival gear, and climbed into an inflatable life raft. His mother did not, and was presumed lost at sea.

On Sunday, rescuers found Carman alone, after he spent eight days adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, as The Washington Post reported. He was lucky to be found alive. A fruitless Coast Guard search covered an area of the sea equal in area to Georgia. The cutters and aircraft had stopped looking for Carman on Friday, Sept. 23.

But, miles from the Massachusetts shore, crew members on the Chinese freighter Orient Lucky caught sight of Carman in his inflatable raft. He was rescued.

But, his ordeal was not yet over.

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As the week went on, Carman faced tough questions about why he survived while his mother is missing and presumed dead. He was asked once again, too, about the murder of his grandfather in 2013.

Three years ago, Carman was the last known person to be seen with his grandfather, John Chakalos, a prosperous real estate developer from Windsor, Conn. On Wednesday, Windsor Police Capt. Thomas LePore said that Carman was still a “person of interest,” according to CBS affiliate WBZ-TV.

Chakalos, who was known for his ornate Christmas displays that included millions of fairy lights, was found shot dead in December 2013. Carman, according to a 2014 search warrant obtained by Fox 25, had several “inconsistencies” in the description of his activities on Dec. 20, 2013, the day his grandfather died of a gunshot to the head. The homicide case remains open.

Carman denies any involvement in the unsolved killing. “My grandfather was like a father to me, and I was like a son to him,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday. “I had absolutely nothing to do with his death.”

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Chakalos was wealthy. He left his estate, worth tens of millions of dollars, to Nathan’s mother, Linda, and his other three daughters.

During the investigation into Chakalos’s death, members of his family spoke “of an incident in which Nathan, as a child, held another child ‘hostage’ with a knife,” according to the search warrant. Police also wrote that Carman discarded his GPS unit and hard drive on Dec. 20.

A search of the apartment where he lived at the time, in Connecticut, found a Remington shotgun, though it did not match Chakalos’s fatal rifle wounds. There were notes on how to make explosives. In New Hampshire, Carman had also purchased a rifle of the same caliber used in the homicide, the warrant stated.

Clark Carman, Nathan’s father, told the Hartford Courant his son was a devoted grandchild. “There were only two people in his life, his mother and his grandfather,” the elder Carman said. “There was no motive. There was nothing to gain with John dying, he had everything to lose.”

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In the aftermath of the tragedy at sea, Carman’s residence was once again searched. Authorities looked through Carman’s Vermont house Monday in connection with his mother’s disappearance, while Carman was still aboard the Orient Lucky.

“The investigation has also revealed that Nathan had intended to go fishing further off-shore in a different location than what were his mother’s intentions and understanding,” according to a copy of the new warrant obtained by the AP. Carman had also been working on repairs to the boat, according to investigators, “which could have potentially rendered the boat unsafe for operation.” As of Wednesday, Carman had not been charged with a crime.

The 22-year-old described the events of the sinking boat as a sudden accident. “The boat just dropped out from under my feet,” Carman said, in the audio recording from the Orient Lucky to Coast Guard officials. “When I saw the life raft, I did not see my mom. Have you found her?”

Carman’s family noted he has Asperger’s syndrome, as The Post reported Monday, which is a form of autism characterized by deficiencies in social skills but has no bearing on likelihood of committing violent crimes.