Judge wonders why husband anxious to declare wife missing at sea dead


A judge on Friday again refused to declare dead Isabella Hellmann, who went missing at sea nearly six months ago, expressing alarm at how quickly the woman’s husband wants to obtain her death certificate.

“People generally hope the other person is alive, and they wait as long as possible,” Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Kathleen Kroll told lawyers for the woman’s husband, 41-year-old Lewis Bennett. “The immediacy of this is concerning.”

Bennett’s wife, Isabella Hellman, vanished 30 miles off the coast of the Bahamas on May 15 aboard her husband’s catamaran. Since then, the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI have launched missing persons investigations, and Bennett, 41, remains jailed after being indicted on charges that he transported as much as $100,000 in stolen coins.

One of Bennett’s lawyers, Edward Downey, said after Friday’s hearing that Bennett did wish Hellmann was alive.

Read The Post’s complete coverage of the disappearance of Isabella Hellmann

But he said that Hellmann’s Delray Beach condo, which is rightfully Bennett’s, is racking up unpaid homeowners’ association fees and could be lost.

“If you don’t pay those, the association can foreclose on your house,” Downey said. “Unless we can have that house marshalled and liquidated, it will be lost.”

But first, Downey believes Hellmann must be declared presumed dead.

To do that, Kroll said she needed testimony that Hellmann was on the boat, that the boat suffered some peril at sea, and that she did not suffer from any mental or financial crises by the time she left on the trip.

She told Downey that she has seen none of that.

“I don’t have any testimony that she was on the boat,” Kroll said. “I don’t have any testimony that there was any peril at sea. I have no testimony about the condition of the woman when she left.”

Bennett has said that he and Hellmann were in the Bahamas, on a delayed honeymoon sailing trip, when he awoke to find that his catamaran had struck something in the Atlantic near Cay Sol and was sinking, and that his wife was gone.

See a gallery of Coast Guard photos from the search for Isabella Hellmann

Bennett wrote to the U.S. Coast Guard within a day after it called off its search and requested, without success, a “letter of presumed death” for his wife of three months and the mother of their now nearly 15-month-old daughter. He later asked the local courts for the official declaration.

The Coast Guard called off its ocean search for Hellmann after four days. Neither the FBI nor the Coast Guard has said whether it suspects foul play in Hellmann’s disappearance.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Bill Cosby makes surprise return to the stage as sexual assault retrial looms
Bill Cosby makes surprise return to the stage as sexual assault retrial looms

Bill Cosby returned to the stage for the first time since he was accused of sexual assault. The veteran comedian appeared for a “special performance” in honor of jazz musician Tony Williams at the LaRose Jazz Club in Philadelphia on Monday. The appearance was his first time back in front of an audience since 2015. >> Read...
Cerabino: Fake news? Here’s real story behind Trump’s porn-star payoff
Cerabino: Fake news? Here’s real story behind Trump’s porn-star payoff

This column goes out to the Mar-a-Lago Trumpettes and the assorted presidential motorcade wavers on Southern Boulevard sidewalks with their Make America Great Again signs and oversized American flags. Hang in there. Don’t let the “fake news” get you down. Especially that story about how then-presidential candidate Donald Trump&rsquo...
Library Life: R.L. Stine set for panel on Feb. 18
Library Life: R.L. Stine set for panel on Feb. 18

“From ghoulies and ghosties And long-leggedy beasties And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!” — Traditional Scottish prayer There are those who the fear noises in the dark, and those who embrace them. For the latter group, Palm Beach Peril is an event not to be missed. Part of the Palm Beach County Library System&rsquo...
Crystal Lake Elementary assistant principal named award finalist
Crystal Lake Elementary assistant principal named award finalist

ALLAMANDA ELEMENTARY The third annual health and wellness expo, “Fitness, Food, and Friendship Around the World,” takes place 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 31 in the cafeteria. Dozens of vendors, including Triumph Kids, Team XTreme, Kidding Around Yoga, 9Round, Digital Vibez and North Palm Beach Tennis, will be on hand. Fifth-graders will present interactive...
Donations needed for annual prom that lets special needs kids shine
Donations needed for annual prom that lets special needs kids shine

Once a year, for one special night, Ashley Parthemer and her friends are crowned queens and kings at a dance that is created just for them. The Night to Shine prom started three years ago at the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches, thanks to a grant from the Tim Tebow Foundation, which is committed to bringing faith, hope and love to people...
More Stories