A year after Nathan Carman’s mother vanished at sea while they were fishing, his aunts filed a lawsuit Monday accusing the 23-year-old of killing his grandfather, and possibly his mother, as part of a scheme to collect a multimillion-dollar inheritance.
The so-called “slayer” suit alleges that Carman is the prime suspect in the disappearance and presumed death of his mother, Linda Carman, and the 2013 slaying of his grandfather, John Chakalos. The complaint seeks a court order barring him from collecting any money from their estates.
The civil suit, filed in the New Hampshire probate court that is overseeing Chakalos’s $44 million estate, says his three surviving daughters “ask this court to declare that the murderer was Nathan Carman — John’s grandson, their nephew — and that Nathan committed this heinous act out of malice and greed.”
Carman, who lives in Vernon, Vt., has denied killing his mother or grandfather and has not been criminally charged. He could not be reached for comment Monday, and his lawyer did not respond to inquiries.
Chakalos was found shot to death in his Windsor, Conn., home in December 2013. The investigation into the slaying is ongoing and Nathan Carman remains a “person of interest,” Windsor police Captain Thomas LePore said Monday.
A wealthy real estate developer who also owned a home in New Hampshire, Chakalos left behind an estate that went to his four daughters. With Linda Carman missing and presumed dead, her share of the estate would go to Nathan, her only child.
Linda Carman’s three sisters — Valerie Santilli, Elaine Chakalos, and Charlene Gallagher — “cannot stand idle while their father’s killer, and perhaps their sister’s killer also, profits from his actions,” said attorney Dan Small, a partner at Holland & Knight, who filed the suit on behalf of the sisters. “This is not about money, it is about justice.”
If Linda Carman’s sisters succeed in blocking him from receiving any inheritance, they have pledged to use the money that would have gone to Nathan Carman to pay expenses related to the investigation into their father’s murder and sister’s disappearance and would give the rest to charity, Small said. The suit does not specify how much Nathan Carman would receive from the estates of his mother and grandfather, but Small said it amounts to millions of dollars.
The “slayer” suit is based on the concept that a killer can’t inherit from a victim.
“In most of these cases it really, as a practical matter, requires a criminal conviction for the probate court to say you are disinherited,” said attorney Brian D. Bixby, a partner at Burns & Levinson who specializes in fiduciary litigation.
Lawsuits can be filed in the absence of criminal charges, but Bixby said “it may be hard to get disinheritance without more than suspicion.”
He said courts throughout the country — even in states that don’t have specific “slayer” statutes — recognize that “if you cause somebody’s death knowingly and purposely, you can’t inherit from them.”
Chakalos, 87, was found shot to death on Dec. 20, 2013. Nathan Carman had dinner with him the night before and was the last known person to see him alive, according to a police affidavit filed in support of a search warrant in the murder investigation. Nathan Carman was supposed to meet his mother a few hours later but never showed up and did not answer his phone, the affidavit said.
Later, investigators learned that Carman had purchased a Sig Sauer semiautomatic rifle in New Hampshire that was the same caliber as the weapon used in the slaying, but he had never told police. He declined to take a polygraph test.
The suit alleges that Carman argued with his grandfather before his murder “about money and other issues,” including his plans for the home in West Chesterfield, N.H.
Last September, Carman and his mother set sail from Point Judith, R.I., for a fishing trip on his 31-foot aluminum boat, the Chicken Pox. A week later, he was alone when he was rescued from a life raft about 115 miles off Martha’s Vineyard.
In an interview with the Globe last year, Carman said the boat sank suddenly and he couldn’t find his mother and didn’t have time to radio for help.
He said he was “trying to come to terms with what seems like a fact: that my mom really is gone.”
Court records filed in Connecticut in 2014 showed that although he had been a suspect in his grandfather’s death, a court determined there was not enough evidence to arrest him.
The court records said that Carman, who has Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, “was capable of violence when his coping mechanisms were challenged” and that a tenant in his building told police he was “a time bomb waiting to go off.”
In the interview with the Globe last year, Carman recalled his grandfather as “the most important person in the world to me.”
Federal and state authorities are continuing to investigate Chakalos’s slaying and Linda Carman’s disappearance, according to Small, the lawyer who filed the suit Monday.
“We understand that these things can take a long time,” Small said. “John Chakalos was murdered in his bed with three shots from a .308 caliber rifle. We are concerned that there is a killer on the loose and we want to do everything we can to get answers.”Shelley Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.