CONCORD — A probate judge Friday called to a halt the blockbuster estate trial in which Nathan Carman was to rebut claims he murdered his millionaire grandfather and was entitled to receive some of the man’s fortune.
Sixth Circuit Court Probate Judge David King ruled the grandfather, John Chakalos, 87, was a resident of Connecticut when he died, meaning any lawsuit over his estate belonged in that state and not in New Hampshire.
The decision short-circuits what was to have been an 18-day bench trial in June in Concord.
Carman’s three aunts were seeking to disqualify him from any access to Chakalos’ fortune.
The 41-page decision overrules a May 2018 decision King had made that Chakalos was a legal resident of West Chesterfield.
Carman’s legal team had asked last month for King to reconsider that decision and submitted additional evidence beyond Carman’s own insistence Chakalos lived in Connecticut and only claimed New Hampshire as his home for tax purposes.
“Their descriptions of his actions, personal connections and daily habits show that although he regularly visited New Hampshire and felt a certain warm nostalgia for the Keene area, he had a more significant and lasting connection to Connecticut,” Judge King wrote.
Chakalos was shot to death in his Windsor, Conn., home on Dec. 20, 2013. Police there have identified Carman as a suspect, but no charges have ever been filed.
Carman was also the last person to have seen his mother, Linda Carman, alive. She was lost at sea in 2016 when Nathan Carman’s boat sank during a fishing trip off the coast of Rhode Island.
Dan Small, the lawyer for the aunts, said in a statement the family is considering all its legal options, including appealing King’s decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court or filing other claims in Connecticut.
“The Chakalos family respectfully but strongly disagrees with the probate court’s opinion dismissing the slayer case on jurisdiction grounds. John immersed himself in New Hampshire where all of his adult and childhood friends live and where he constantly gave back to his community. He especially felt a part of Keene, where he was from, and Chesterfield, where he built the home of his dreams, voted, and had many joy-filled occasions with his family and friends,” said Small, a lawyer with the Holland & Knight law firm of Washington, D.C.
“The family is thoroughly considering its options for filing further actions in Connecticut and New Hampshire to make sure that Nathan is held accountable for his lies, destruction of evidence and murderous conduct.”
Carman’s lawyers, James Rosenberg, Ben Siracusa Hillman and Cathy Green, praised King’s ruling.
“We are very pleased that Judge King issued this timely ruling dismissing the case against Nathan,” they said in a statement.
“His opinion is very thorough, well-reasoned and factually driven. This case should never have been brought in New Hampshire.”
In his own lengthy statement, Carman denied the claims about the deaths of his grandfather and mother.
“I am pleased by the dismissal of the case on the grounds of residency, because the court got the facts right,” Carman said. “I want to be clear that the underlying allegations in my aunts’ dismissed petition that I murdered my grandpa and/or my mom are as false and meritless as my aunts’ position on residency has been shown to be.”
Some media accounts have set Nathan Carman’s potential inheritance at $7 million.
The aunts, Valerie Santilli, Elaine Chakalos and Charlene Gallagher, through their lawyers maintained New Hampshire was John Chakalos’ legal residence because he had a mansion in West Chesterfield, a New Hampshire driver’s license, wills and trusts based in New Hampshire and had voted in eight different New Hampshire state or primary elections from 1996-2012.
But after analyzing financial records, depositions, videos, real estate, voting and other records, King said he concluded Carman’s lawyers were right that Chakalos had claimed New Hampshire as his home to reduce his tax liability since New Hampshire has no income tax, but that the fight over his estate belonged in Connecticut.
“It is apparent that while John Chakalos had a nostalgic connection to New Hampshire, he was often physically absent and engaged in important personal and business activities in Connecticut,” King wrote.