Hartford, Conn. ( Associated Press) — The circumstantial evidence against Nathan Carman had been lying in plain sight for years before his surprise indictment and arrest this month, on the charge that he killed his mother at sea off New England in a multi-million-dollar heist plot .
Federal prosecutors in Vermont are not commenting on the timing of their decision to put the case before a grand jury, and the indictment offers no clues and no new information on the case, including a dramatic rescue at sea and the suspicious deaths of two members. is included. of a wealthy New England family.
Legal experts and other law enforcement officials say the delay in bringing a criminal case could be the result of several factors, including that his mother and her boat have never been found.
“It’s very difficult to charge a murder federally,” said Jessica Brown, a former state and federalist who is now an assistant professor at Vermont Law School.
The grand jury indictment charged Carmen, 28, of Vernon, Vermont, of manslaughter and fraud in the murder of her mother, Linda Carmen, during a fishing trip that began in Rhode Island. Carman made international headlines when he was found alone in a life raft near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, eight days after he and his mother left the port.
The indictment also accused him of fatally shooting his millionaire grandfather, John Chaklos, in Connecticut in 2013, but did not charge him with that murder. He has repeatedly denied any involvement in both the deaths.
Federal prosecutors say his death paved the way for Carman to inherit his mother’s stake in the Chaklos’ estate — an estimated $7 million. The inheritance is tied up in probate court in Connecticut, where her mother’s three sisters seek to prevent Carmen from receiving any money from her grandfather’s estate.
Seven of the eight counts in the indictment relate to charges that prosecutors allege were fraudulent attempts to obtain money from his grandfather’s property or insurance companies. The second count accuses Carman of killing his mother.
Vermont US Attorney Nicholas Kerrest declined to comment on the matter through a spokesman.
Federal public defender Michael DeSoutels, whose office is defending Carman, also declined to comment on the indictment.
“His mental state is strong, and he knows he has a good team of defense attorneys working for him,” Desautels said.
Some law enforcement officials involved in the investigation said the indictment could be the result of new evidence that is not being disclosed. Or, perhaps, federal prosecutors in Vermont were more aggressive in gathering all the evidence collected by various local, state, and federal agencies and presenting it before a grand jury.
“One of the issues is jurisdiction, especially when you cross state lines, and that has the potential to be brought together under one roof,” said Donald Melanson, Police Chief in Windsor, Connecticut, where Chaklos was killed. . “And I think that’s why, rightly so, the US Attorney’s Office took it and took responsibility for it and brought everything together.”
“When you look at the overall picture … it brings, to me, a much clearer picture of how everything is linked together to achieve his (Carman’s) goals,” he said.
In 2014, before Melanson joined the department, Windsor Police drafted an arrest warrant accusing Carman of murder in the death of her grandfather, but a state prosecutor refused to sign it and Middletown , pursuant to a search warrant for Linda Carman’s home in Connecticut, requested more information. , obtained by the police after disappearing at sea. Neither state nor federal prosecutors in Connecticut or Rhode Island ever brought any charges against Carmen.
Things got cold. Then came the unfortunate fishing trip, which aroused the investigators’ suspicions about Carmen. But even the investigation into the disappearance of Linda Carman failed to yield an arrest.
In 2017, investigators began looking into a lawsuit filed in federal court in Providence, Rhode Island, where the insurer and Carman were dismissing each other’s claims of $85,000 for damages to their boat called “chicken pox.” . Current and former investigators said the insurance case tied all the evidence together and may have led to a new attempt to charge Carmen.
Lawyers for the insurers set a case accusing Carman of both plotting and covering up the murders, using the findings of the police investigation and information obtained himself, including:
– A month before the shooting of Chaklos, Carman bought a rifle that could fire the same amount of bullets used in the shooting. When asked about the rifle, Carman invoked his Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination during a statement that was never found.
– Carman destroys the hard drive of his laptop computer and the GPS device in the truck after killing his grandfather. When asked why, he again took the fifth.
— Prior to a 2016 fishing trip, Carman had altered the boat in ways that contributed to its sinking, a Rhode Island case judge found while dismissing Carman’s insurance claim. Witnesses testified that he removed two fixed trim tabs from the stern, near the ship’s waterline, leaving holes he tried to seal with epoxy sticks.
– An expert on tidal patterns testified that the lifeboat could not have floated toward Martha’s Vineyard, with Carman claiming that the boat sank, but may have actually drifted in the opposite direction. Carmen’s lawyers said it was the first time she had used nautical charts and that she was confused about the boat’s location.
After the murder of her grandfather, Carmen inherited approximately $550,000.
By the end of the summer of 2016, prosecutors said Carman, who had moved from Connecticut to Vermont, was unemployed and low on funds after quickly burning through most of that money, most of which he moved to his new home. spent on
Officials said it was then that he took a fishing trip with his mother with plans to kill him. The relationship between mother and son was strained, but fishing was one of the ways they were still able to connect.
Carmen is in custody while her case is pending.
Federal prosecutors argued in court documents that he should remain locked up while awaiting trial because he poses a flight risk and poses a danger to the community.
Prosecutors cited the violence and planning involved in the two murders and their apparent lack of ties with the community – a factor in bail pleas. He said that due to his conduct alienating his family, he has little personal interaction with other people.
He also said that he had discontinued the mental health treatment he received from childhood until the age of 17. They wrote that Carmen was diagnosed with possible mood and psychotic disorders in 2011, and had a history of hostility and aggression.
Carmen and her relatives have also said that she has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that may be characterized by social awkwardness and repetitive behavior but is not associated with an increased likelihood of violence.
Carmen has said that she has been misunderstood and is an easy target for the police because she has Asperger’s.
Lavoie reported from Richmond, Virginia. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vermont, and Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as Associated Press News researcher Rhonda Schaffner in New York.