Man rescued by freighter en route to Saint John charged with mother's murder
Nathan Carman was already dogged by suspicion in 2016 when he was found drifting at sea
The story Nathan Carman gave to the U.S. Coast Guard when he was rescued at sea by a freighter en route to Saint John is going to be tested in a federal court in Vermont.
Carman has always maintained that he and his mother had an accident while they were on a fishing trip nearly six years ago.
An indictment filed May 2 by Nikolas Kerest, the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, paints a very different picture.
It says Carman planned to kill his mother, with malice aforethought, and then scuttled their fishing boat, the Chicken Pox.
Carman was arrested May 10 and pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charge and not guilty to multiple fraud charges. He remains in federal custody until his bail hearing, which has been postponed until July.
According to court documents, mother and son departed from the Ram Point Marina in South Kingston, R.I., just before midnight on Sept. 17, 2016.
Eight days later, Nathan Carman was spotted adrift off Martha's Vineyard by the crew of the Orient Lucky, which was headed for Saint John to pick up a load of scrap metal.
From aboard the ship, Carman spoke to the U.S. Coast Guard, and a recording of part of that conversation was released to the media.
Carman can be heard saying that he'd had a problem with the engine and his boat took on water.
He said he lost sight of his mother and climbed into the lifeboat.
Saint John shipping agent Tom O'Reilly says news of the indictment, which recently made headlines in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe, also caught his attention.
He was one of the first to be notified in 2016 that a ship would be arriving at the American Iron and Metal terminal with a person on board who was described as an illegal entrant to Canada.
"I don't recall having met Nathan," O'Reilly said in an interview on Tuesday. "I'm sure I was sitting on the berth when they took him off the ship, absolutely, but I didn't have any conversation with him.
"When something like this happens …[the authorities] want to have this guy before anybody gets to him."
O'Reilly vividly remembers meeting with Capt. Zhao Hengdong to discuss the situation. He said the captain showed him a letter from Carman, expressing gratitude at being saved and sorrow for losing his mother.
Basically, the letter "just said 'I'm very thankful that you saved my life ... I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come along,' " O'Reilly said.
On Oct. 5, 2016, O'Reilly managed to arrange for CBC News to board the Orient Lucky, visit the bridge and speak to the captain, who described spotting Carman with his binoculars.
He said he realized the man was in trouble.
Meanwhile, O'Reilly was getting phone calls from several news outlets also eager to get photos and information about the rescue.
O'Reilly jokingly described it as his big break. He said he saw himself for a second-and-a-half in video shown on the ABC program 20/20.
"I called my sister in Toronto and my other sisters up in Ottawa. 'I'm going to be on 20/20, you'd better watch.' I don't know if they did or not, but when I saw it, you know, geez, I was disappointed," he said.
But O'Reilly knew the suspicions dogging Carman were no joke.
Even then, U.S. media had reported that Carman was a suspect in the 2013 murder of his wealthy grandfather, John Chakalos.
The Hartford Courant newspaper had reported that Chakalos's estate was worth about $40 million US, and that his four daughters, including Carman's mother, Linda Carman, were beneficiaries of about $21 million.
"Did this kid who was 22 years old, did he murder his grandfather?" asked O'Reilly, incredulous. "Did he take his mother out on that boat and drown her or knock her unconscious and let her die like that?"
Carman was never criminally charged with his grandfather's murder.
However, the May 2 indictment says he used a SIG Sauer rifle to shoot Chakalos twice while the 87-year-old slept in his Connecticut home on the night of Dec. 13, 2013.
O'Reilly says it's shocking to think that Carman would harm his own family for money, and he's curious to see how the trial will turn out.
"I won't be fixated on it," he said. "But yeah, I'll be interested."