Monday, May 13, 2019

The Disappearance and Presumed Murder of Isabella Hellman

Lewis Bennett and his wife, Isabella Hellman

Isabella Hellman (41) has been missing at sea since May 14th, 2017. She disappeared while on a trip through the Atlantic aboard her new husband Lewis Bennett’s (38) catamaran boat. Isabella and Lewis were the only passengers on the evening of May 14th. Lewis told investigators that, on the night of Isabella’s disappearance, he activated autopilot on the boat around 8pm before going below deck to sleep; Isabella allegedly remained upstairs to “keep watch.” Lewis said that he awoke hours later, after hearing the boat collide with an unknown object, as they neared Cay Sal Bank, Bahamas. When he emerged from below deck, Lewis said that Isabella was gone. After sending off emergency signals, Lewis abandoned the catamaran for a life boat and the catamaran eventually sunk. He was rescued a few hours later, without Isabella.

Upon returning to the couple’s shared home in Miami, Florida, Lewis announced that he believed Isabella had fallen overboard and drowned. He did not participate in any searches for her. Instead, he promptly tried to declare Isabella dead before taking their 9 month old daughter to his hometown in England—leaving Isabella and her side of the family completely behind. After months of minimal leads and clues about what happened on that night, police finally announced that they had arrested Lewis and charged him with second degree murder in Isabella’s case on February 20th, 2018. After his arrest, FBI investigators who worked the case said Lewis “falsely claimed that Isabella disappeared after the supposed accident.” Investigators also stated that they had evidence that Lewis purposely sank the boat. In fact, they revealed that damage the boat’s twin hulls appeared to come from the inside, rather than outside.

It is believed that Isabella’s death was “financially motivated.” Investigators believe that Lewis immediately tried to declare Isabella dead because that would give him rights to her home in Delray Beach and also access to her bank accounts. 

In November 2018, Lewis accepted a plea deal and ultimately pleaded guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge in Isabella’s disappearance. This decision comes after a plea deal was arranged between Lewis’s defense and the prosecution. The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is 8 years, however the judge in the case stated that Lewis may be sentenced above or below the maximum sentencing guideline. Despite this, Lewis was ultimately sentenced to 8 years. He remains behind bars in a Florida prison today.

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