By Dave Altimari, Hartford Courant
Published: January 24, 2019
A West Hartford probate judge has approved allotting Nathan Carman at least $125,000 from a trust fund established by his slain grandfather to hire an attorney to represent him in a legal fight with his aunts.
Carman can use the trust to pay off more than $30,000 in credit card debt.
Carman has hired Hartford attorney Paul Spinella to represent him in New Hampshire where aunts Valerie Santilli, Elaine Chakalos and Charlene Gallagher have filed a so-called “slayer” petition alleging that Carman killed his grandfather, John Chakalos of Windsor, in 2013 and was responsible for the presumed death of his mother, Linda Carman, who was lost at sea during a fishing trip with her son in September 2016.
The aunts want New Hampshire Probate Judge David King to rule that Carman isn’t eligible to receive any of the millions, possibly as much as $7 million, that he stands to inherit from his grandfather’s estate as Linda Carman’s only surviving heir.
A trial based on the slayer petition was scheduled to start this week but King postponed it after the aunts asked for a 90-day continuance to hire a new attorney. Carman has been representing himself in New Hampshire, telling King that he doesn’t have any money to hire an attorney. King has implored him numerous times to get an attorney and urged him during the last court date earlier this month to find one now that he is going to get the money from the trust fund.
Carman was seeking an emergency order in West Hartford probate court to have Santilli removed as executor of the Nathan Carman Trust Fund claiming she had a conflict of interest because she was suing him in New Hampshire. Eagan appointed former Hartford Probate Judge Robert Killian as a special purpose trustee to review the request. Killian filed a two-page letter earlier this week ordering the trust fund to give Carman $125,000 to hire Spinella to represent him in New Hampshire.
Killian also ordered another $25,000 to pay for experts to testify at the trial. Killian also ordered the trust fund to pay off Carman’s credit card bills.
“Mr. Carman has been living on credit cards and has neglected to pay them for some time,” Killian wrote., He authorized another $30,000 to pay off the credit card bills.
Killian also ordered that Carman be given a $1,000 monthly stipend starting Feb. 1. He also made it clear that there’d be no more money awarded and he found that Santilli had done nothing wrong while administering the trust fund.
"I would be disinclined to reimburse any additional credit card debts or increase the stipend without a significant change in circumstances,” Killian wrote, adding only if the New Hampshire case runs “amok” would he consider appropriating more money.
King hasn’t set a date for when the trial will begin. Both Spinella and whoever the sisters hire as a new attorney will need significant time to catch up on the case which in effect be a murder trial with more than a half million pages of documents and numerous witnesses. The trial is expected to last more than a month.
At the last court hearing earlier this month Carman told the judge that he didn’t want a postponement and would rather proceed representing himself than hire some “fancy-talking lawyer.”
“I don’t care anymore. My reputation is shot and it is never going to be recovered,” Carman said.
But King admonished Carman, telling him that he needs an attorney to help him with evidence, cross examine witnesses and vet experts.
"You need a lawyer in this case and now that you are able to get one I would strongly recommend that you do so, " King said.
The sisters needed to hire a new attorney after King issued a scathing Dec. 21 ruling against their Boston-based attorney Dan Small. King accused Small and other attorneys for the sisters of "attempting to take advantage of Mr. Carman’s pro se status and lack of legal training.''
King cited an attempt to file Carman’s medical records without a seal as the latest in a series of “uncivilized, bordering on unethical conduct that has resulted in a tremendous waste of judicial resources as additional hearings have needed to be scheduled and additional orders issued.” He threatened to make referrals to either the New Hampshire Attorney Discipline Office or the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers. "
Attorney Robert Satterley, the families long-time probate attorney, said following that rebuke the sisters questioned whether Small and his firm Holland & Knight could represent them as they were “displeased with the judge’s loss of confidence in their trial counsel.” Sattlerly said that due to “unusual and extraordinary circumstances” the sisters were seeking a 90-day continuance because they were replacing Holland & Knight and hiring new attorneys who would need to prepare for a trial and “couldn’t possibly do so in 11 days.”
Carman also is fighting with the insurance company in federal court in Rhode Island over his $85,000 claim for his boat, the Chicken Pox, which he was piloting when it sank in 2016 with his mother on board.
Nathan and Linda Carman were tuna fishing off the coast of Long Island when the boat started taking on water and sank quickly. Nathan Carman told authorities he managed to jump onto a life raft but that he didn’t see his mother, who was lost at sea. Nathan Carman was rescued eight days later by a freighter that saw his raft floating about 600 miles off Martha’s Vineyard.
The insurance company has denied the payment alleging that the boat sank because of alterations Carman made to it before that ill-fated trip. They have also raised questions about his story of floating on the sea for eight days and located receipts for a weapon that Nathan Carman purchased shortly before his grandfather was murdered which uses the caliber of bullets used to kill his grandfather.
Carman has been unable to produce the weapon and lawyers for the insurance company have alleged he disposed of it on the fishing trip where his mother disappeared as part of his scheme , hatched over a five year period, to inherit millions of dollars.
John Chakalos was killed in his home on Dec. 20, 2013 - shot several times in the back of the head at close range. At the time, Windsor police focused on Nathan Carman and tried unsuccessfully to get an arrest warrant charging him with the murder.
The entire Windsor police file on that murder, more than 22,000 pages, was turned over to the sisters' attorneys and is part of the records in the New Hampshire case and police officers are supposed to testify at the trial. Those records were also given to Carman, who provided them to David Anderson, his attorney in Rhode Island.
Anderson promptly filed some of them in federal court seeking to interview a woman referred to as “Mistress Y” about the weekend she spent with Chakalos at Mohegan Sun before he was killed, the $3,500 he gave her for breast enhancement surgery, and a 19-minute phone call she had with Chakalos on the night of the murder just as Nathan Carman was leaving his grandfather’s Windsor home.
Mistress Y has been deposed in the New Hampshire case and is expected to be called as a witness. Attorney’s representing her have filed to intervene in the New Hampshire case in anticipation of that testimony.