The Miami Herald reports that a man who claimed his wife went missing on a sailing trip has now been arrested in connection with her disappearance, just after being sentenced to seven months in federal prison for stealing nearly $40,000 in gold and silver coins.
Lewis Bennett, 40, was charged with second degree murder in connection with his wife, Isabella Hellman’s, disappearance at sea last May. Initially, Bennett told authorities he hadn’t done anything to try to find his missing wife. He then filed for a presumptive death certificate in Palm Beach County in September. A missing adult can be presumed dead after five years’ time of being reported missing in the state of Florida.
Investigators took note that Bennett filed for the death certificate only a few months after her disappearance, and he would financially benefit if it was granted.
On May 15, 2017, Hellman was last seen on a 40-foot catamaran near the Bahamas. The two had only been married a few months and were sailing to various islands for a belated honeymoon. Hellman owned a home in Florida and the pair were headed back to the mainland. Bennett is a dual citizen of Australia and the UK.
Interestingly, part of the cargo on the boat was the stolen gold and silver coins that Bennett took just 10 days earlier. Bennett admitted that he stole the coins while working as a crewman off of St. Maarten, but there is no indication of whether his wife knew about them. He told authorities that he had put the boat on auto pilot before going to bed at 8 p.m., then was startled awake by a crash and found that the boat was taking on water. He was unable to find his wife on board.
After Bennett was found in a life raft with several valuables by the Coast Guard, the seamen felt that Bennett should have been able to save the boat. They also noted the damage to the hulls looked as if they came from inside the boat.
Hellman’s body was never recovered, and Bennett admitted he did not make any attempt to call out to her, find her or save her during the shipwreck.
*Photo credit Broward Sheriff’s Office