Nathan Carman was 100 miles from the Rhode Island shoreline when he heard a strange sound coming from his boat’s engine, he told a judge this week. He’d been fishing with his mother, Linda Carman, on a Sunday afternoon, but minutes later his boat was underwater and his mother was nowhere to be found. Carman spent five hours on the stand Thursday and again on Friday.
“I did not hear her scream,” Nathan, 25, said about his mother’s final moments. “I don’t think there would have been time to compose a sentence.”
Nathan’s aunts believe their nephew tried to accelerate his $7 million inheritance by killing his mother and grandfather in two separate incidents. His testimony this week was part of a civil case brought by the boat-insurance companies seeking to deny his $85,000 claim.
Nathan and Linda left for an overnight fishing trip on a Saturday night in September 2016. Nathan claims the two fished near Block Island before heading out to Block Canyon, 100 miles from shore, where they trawled deeper waters for tuna. After the boat went down and his mother was lost, Nathan says he spent eight days on a life raft until a passing freight ship rescued him 115 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.
In filings and testimony this week, the boat-insurance companies have tried to poke holes in Nathan’s story. “I don’t see any way this boat could rapidly sink short of striking a huge object in the ocean or a rogue wave going over on top of it,” Eric Greene, a marine architect, told the judge. A lobster fisherman who was working Block Canyon at the time Nathan claims to have been there said that he never saw any sign of Nathan’s boat or a life raft. Richard Limeburner, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said that drift analysis showed that, had Nathan’s boat gone down where he said it had, his life raft would have drifted west. However, Nathan was found 40 miles east of Block Canyon. (Limeburner was the guy who located wreckage from the 2009 Air France flight that crashed over the Atlantic Ocean after taking off from Brazil.)
On the stand, Nathan was calm but uncomfortable, according to the Boston Globe.
“Was your mother even on board?” a lawyer for the insurers asked Nathan.
“I’ve told you, yes, she was on board, and I asked her to reel in the lines, which she did.”
“You didn’t hand her a life jacket?” the attorney asked.
“Nor did I put one on myself,” Nathan said.
On Friday, Judge John. J. McConnell Jr. asked if Nathan shouted out to his mother when the boat was sinking.
“I treated my mother like a passenger,” Nathan replied. “She was more kind of the problem than the solution.”
When lawyers asked Nathan why he hadn’t activated his emergency beacon to alert the Coast Guard, he responded, “I actually have a very strong aversion to pressing a button that is going to result in a helicopter coming out.”
Nathan said his life raft and safety bag were well stocked with enough food for two people to survive two weeks, and a bag with dry clothes, because he had read In the Heart of the Sea, Nathan Philbrick’s book about the crew of the Essex, a whaling ship that was attacked by a sperm whale in the Pacific Ocean in 1820. Most of the crew died from starvation and dehydration.
Before the trial, Judge McConnell denied the insurance companies’ request to include evidence connected to the murder of Nathan’s 87-year-old grandfather, real-estate tycoon John Chakalos. In December 2013, Chakalos was found murdered in his Windsor, Connecticut, home. He had been shot twice in the back of the head. Nathan was the last person to see his grandfather alive. Ballistics would later show that at least one of the bullets matched the caliber of a gun Nathan had purchased a month before Chakalos’s murder. When detectives asked Nathan to list any firearms he owned, Nathan failed to mention the gun, an assault rifle he’d purchased in New Hampshire. When detectives learned of the existence of the gun, Nathan claimed to have lost it.
Nathan has not been charged in either case and denies wrongdoing.
According to a source in the courtroom, federal investigators from several agencies observed the proceedings.