Windham County, Vt., sheriff searches home of man found missing at sea

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VERNON, VT. — The Windham County Sheriff's Office conducted a search of Nathan Carman's home at the behest of South Kingston, R.I., Police Department.

Carman, 22, spent a week at sea in a four-person, inflatable life raft after his 31-foot aluminum fishing boat sank. On Monday, he was rescued by a passing freighter and on Tuesday he arrived in Boston and was being questioned by Coast Guard officials. However, his mother, Linda Carman, 54, of Middletown, Conn., is still missing and presumed dead, Coast Guard officials said.

Upon arrival in Boston, Carman appeared healthy and alert, but didn't speak as he stepped off the boat and was quickly taken to a waiting car for his "survivor debriefing," a standard procedure for people who are rescued at sea.

"We want to find out what happened, what can we do better to aid a search and rescue in the future," Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone told the Associated Press. She said Carman was to be reunited with his family once the debriefing is completed.

Carman and his mother set off for a fishing trip Sept. 18, but their boat sank. The Coast Guard searched for the mother and son for days but called off the search Friday. Carman was discovered off the coast of Massachusetts, about 100 nautical miles south of Martha's Vineyard.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Groll told the Associated Press that Coast Guard officials spoke by phone with Carman after he was rescued by the freighter. Groll said Carman reported that when his boat started to sink, it went down quickly.

"He looked for his mother and did not see her. He had some food and water, and he jumped into the life raft, and that was it," Groll said Monday. Groll said the Coast Guard did not receive a distress call, but she was unsure if the boat was equipped with a VHF radio that could be used to contact emergency personnel.

"The investigation revealed that Nathan's boat was in need of mechanical repair and that Nathan had been conducting a portion of these repairs upon his own volition, which could have potentially rendered his boat unsafe for operation," wrote South Kingston Police's Lt. Alfred E. Bucco III, in an affidavit requesting a search warrant of Carman's Vernon home. "The investigation has also revealed that Nathan had intended to go fishing farther off-shore in a different location than what were his mother's intentions and understanding."

According to friends of Linda Carman, she said they were going fishing at "Stripper Rock," which is located close to Block Island and about 20 miles from the Rhode Island mainland. But, according to the affidavit, Nathan Carman told a nearby boat owner at Ram Point Marina, where his boat, "Chickenpox," was docked, that they were going out to "The Canyons," 100 miles off-shore where bigger fish can be pursued. According to surveillance footage, Linda Carman and her son boarded the boat and left the marina at 11:12 p.m. on Sept. 17.

Another man at the marina told police he noticed Carman was taking the trim tabs off his boat and filling in the holes with a marine-type adhesive. Carman told the man the trim tabs "were not doing any good." The man also told investigators that "he never observed Nathan with fishing gear."

A third witness told police that there were "many issues with Nathan's boat to include issues with a newly installed motor and air getting into the lines. Nathan advised (the witness) that he would fix the motor himself. It is unknown if he fixed the motor prior to departing ..." stated the affidavit.

In addition, the third witness told police there was a problem with the boat's bilge pump and he did not know if the problem had been addressed.

During a phone interview, Carman told police he and his mother were fishing on the "Block Canyon" for tuna when the engine failed and the boat began taking on water. "Carman stated his mother was pulling in tuna lines while he was checking on the engine. He retrieved the safety equipment and boarded the life raft and lost sight of his mother who never boarded the life raft," stated the affidavit.

Carman's Vernon home was searched on Monday night, starting at 6:15 p.m. A modem, a Garman sim card and a letter written by Carman were retrieved from the home and his pick-up truck. The purpose of the search was to find any information related to the "coordinates, locations or positioning ... relative to the location or destination of the fishing trip ... (and) any receipts for purchases of boat parts or equipment made by Carman for repairs or improvements made to the Chickenpox."

According to the application for a search warrant, police were looking for evidence that would support charges of reckless endangerment.

Family members have said Nathan Carman has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Hubert Santos, a high-profile Connecticut attorney, told The Hartford Courant that his firm sent a lawyer to Boston to meet Carman. Santos, who said he previously represented him on another matter, said his office has contacted the Coast Guard and the U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut and Massachusetts to let them know that whether "he needs a lawyer or not," Carman has an attorney who wants to be present before any interviews are done.

Sharon Hartstein, a close friend of Linda Carman's, said the mother and son regularly went on fishing trips together. "They went fishing — that was one of their bonding things. When he was available, she tried to make time so she could spend time with him."

Hartstein said Linda Carman worked to help children with autism with daily tasks, including dressing and shaving. "She has connected with these families in such a way that they're devastated, they are missing her and can't imagine life without her."

The family was also struck by tragedy in 2013 when Linda Carman's 87-year-old father, John Chakalos, a real estate developer from Windsor, Conn., was found fatally shot in his home. The death was ruled a homicide; no arrest has been made. Earlier this year, the family offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of Chakalos' killer. Chakalos owned a second home in Chesterfield, N.H., and each Christmas festooned it with Christmas lights. Visitors were allowed to come view the display and were encouraged to donate to the local food shelf as a form of payment.

Linda Carman's mother, Rita Chakalos, died of cancer just weeks before Carman's father was killed. A will filed in the probate division of New Hampshire's 8th Circuit Court shows that John Chakalos left an estate worth more than $42 million to his four adult daughters.

A phone call to the Windsor, Conn., Police Department to determine the status of the investigation into the death of John Chakalos was not returned by press time.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.


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