The sister of Isabella Hellmann, the suburban Delray Beach woman reported lost at sea in May, has dropped an effort to take control of Hellmann’s assets from the woman’s newlywed husband.
Adriana DiFeo of Jupiter had filed in Palm Beach County Court in June to challenge Lewis Bennett, but dropped the petition on Friday, court records show.
Bennett has said he was awakened early on May 15 after his catamaran struck something west of Cay Sal in the Bahamas. He said he came topside to find the vessel was taking on water and Hellmann, his wife of three months, was gone. He was rescued, but a four-day search to find Hellmann, 41, was officially called off May 18.
Within a day of that, or earlier — the Coast Guard won’t say — Bennett asked the agency for a “letter of presumed death,” court documents show.
The Coast Guard and the FBI confirmed May 26, eight days after the search was called off, that each was conducting a “missing person investigation.” Neither agency has said whether Bennett is a target of the investigation or even if either suspects foul play.
But on June 16, several FBI investigators spent hours searching the couple’s residence, leaving with numerous boxes. At the time, an FBI spokesman would say only that the agency “initiated a court-authorized search” as “part of the investigation into the disappearance of Isabella Hellmann.” Neither the FBI nor the Coast Guard has commented since.
“While she (DiFeo) agrees that her brother-in-law has priority to serve as conservator under the statute, she does not support his petition to oppose her petition in light of the ongoing investigation of his actions at the time Isabella went overboard,” DiFeo’s lawyer, Mitchell Kitroser of North Palm Beach, told The Palm Beach Post on Monday.
“We offered Mr. Bennett full transparency and open disclosure of all steps Adriana would have taken as conservator, in an effort to work together with him, despite the suspicions surrounding his role in Isabella’s disappearance. Unfortunately, he was unwilling to work with us,” Kitroser said. “Isabella’s family continues to pray for her and for her return as well as for the safety and well-being of her infant daughter, Emilia, who Mr. Bennett has taken and refused to allow them to see.”
Bennett’s lawyer, Robert Feldman of Boca Raton, declined Monday to comment. All efforts by The Post to reach Bennett have been unsuccessful.
On June 28, Bennett published on his Facebook page his first posting since early April, saying, “I have now returned to the UK with my daughter to seek the comfort of my friends and family.” It sparked a long line of comments of support from friends and relatives, but also questions from people about his role in his wife’s disappearance. He took it down July 4 and later shut down his Facebook page altogether.
In mid-July, a British journalist directed by The Post went to the home of a man who identified himself as Bennett’s father, but the man had no comment.
A police report has said one of Hellman’s sisters screamed accusations at Bennett during a May 28 confrontation at the Boca Raton home of Hellmann’s relatives. The Hellmann family also has not responded to numerous inquiries from The Post.
The sister’s petition had said it wanted to protect the suburban Delray Beach condominium, which it valued at $117,000, and which was jointly owned by Hellmann and a corporation created by Hellman and Bennett. It also sought to protect undetermined financial accounts and possibly a car, and to pay Hellmann’s debts.