Man rescued by freighter en route to Saint John is charged with murdering his mother

The story Nathan Carman told the US Coast Guard when he was rescued at sea by a freighter en route to Saint John is going to be considered in federal court in Vermont.

Carman has always maintained that he and his mother had an accident 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.

He says Carman planned to kill his mother, premeditated, and then scuttled their fishing boat, the Chicken Pox.

Carman was arrested May 10 and pleaded not guilty to first degree murder 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, the mother and son left Ram Point Marina in South Kingston, RI just before midnight on September 17, 2016.

Eight days later, Nathan Carman was spotted adrift off Martha’s Vineyard by the crew of the Orient Lucky, heading for Saint John to pick up a shipment of scrap metal.

Aboard the ship, Carman spoke with the United States Coast Guard and a recording of part of that conversation was released to the media.

Carman can be heard saying that he had a problem with the engine and that his boat had taken on water.

He said he lost sight of his mother and got into the lifeboat.

Saint John shipping agent Tom O’Reilly recalls being advised that the Orient Lucky would arrive with an illegal entrant on board. (Graham Thompson/CBC News)

Saint John shipping agent Tom O’Reilly said news of the indictment, which recently made headlines in the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe, also drew His attention.

He was one of the first to be notified in 2016 that a ship would arrive at the US Iron and Metal Terminal with a person on board described as illegally entering Canada.

“I don’t remember meeting Nathan,” O’Reilly said in an interview Tuesday. “I’m sure I was sitting on the berth when they took him off the ship, absolutely, but I had no conversation with him.

“When something like this happens…[the authorities] I want to get this guy before someone gets to him.”

Captain Zhao Hengdong spoke to CBC News in 2016 from the deck of the Orient Lucky. He said he spotted Carman with his binoculars and knew he was in trouble. (File photo by Brian Chisholm/CBC News)

O’Reilly vividly remembers meeting with Captain Zhao Hengdong to discuss the situation. He said the captain showed him a letter from Carman, expressing his gratitude for being rescued and his grief for losing his mother.

Basically, the letter “just said, ‘I’m so grateful you saved my life…I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come,'” O’Reilly said.

On October 5, 2016, O’Reilly managed to get CBC News to board the Orient Lucky, tour the deck, 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 receiving phone calls from several media outlets also eager for 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 a video broadcast on the ABC program 20/20.

“I called my sister in Toronto and my other sisters in Ottawa. ‘I’m going to be 20/20, you better watch.’ I don’t know if they did or not, but when I saw it, you know, damn it, I was disappointed,” he said.

Orient Lucky at the American Iron and Metal Terminal in Saint John on October 5, 2016. O’Reilly says that to his knowledge, the ship never returned. (File photo by Brian Chisholm/CBC News)

But O’Reilly knew the suspicions hanging over Carman were no joke.

Even then, US media reported that Carman was a suspect in the 2013 murder of his wealthy grandfather, John Chakalos.

The Hartford Courant newspaper had reported that Chakalos’ estate was worth approximately US$40 million and that his four daughters, including Carman’s mother, Linda Carman, benefited approximately $21 million.

“Did this 22-year-old kid kill his grandfather? O’Reilly asked incredulously. “Did he take his mother on that boat and drown her or knock her out and let her die like that?”

Carman was never criminally charged with the murder of his grandfather.

However, the May 2 indictment says he used a SIG Sauer rifle to shoot Chakalos twice as the 87-year-old slept in his Connecticut home on the night of December 13, 2013.

O’Reilly says it’s shocking to think Carman would hurt his own family for money, and he’s curious to see how the trial will play out.

“I won’t be obsessed with it,” he said. “But yes, I will be interested.”