Attorneys for Lewis Bennett will be in court this month to ask that a judge declare that his wife, Isabella Hellmann, whom he reported lost at sea on May 15, be declared dead.
Bennett, 40, likely will not be at the hearing, set for Oct. 19 at the North County Courthouse in Palm Beach Gardens. He remains in the Broward County Jail, held without bond, after pleading not guilty Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale on federal charges he transported stolen coins. His trial is set for Dec. 11 in Key West.
In the early hours of May 15, the newlywed couple was on a belated honeymoon sailing trip aboard Bennett’s boat, Surf Into Summer, when he called the Coast Guard to say he was about 30 miles west of Cay Sal in the Bahamas and woke to find the catamaran had struck something. Bennett said he went on deck to find Hellmann, a 41-year-old Delray Beach real estate broker, gone and his vessel taking on water.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI both are conducting “missing person” investigations. Neither will comment except to say the investigations remain active.
Neither agency has publicly said it suspects any foul play in Hellmann’s disappearance.
Bennett filed a probate case in September in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. His motion includes a request that a judge issue a “presumptive death certificate” for his wife of three months and the mother of their 15-month old daughter. Normally the state must wait five years to declare a missing person dead.
Soon after his rescue, Bennett, a dual citizen of England and Australia, said in a social media posting that he took the couple’s daughter to his native England, where his parents live. Neither the FBI or the U.S. Attorney’s Office will say how Bennett returned to Florida and was arrested.
A federal complaint said that, after the Coast Guard had rescued Bennett and flew him to Marathon, authorities found coins on him that were stolen while he worked in May 2016 as a mate aboard a yacht in St. Maarten in the Caribbean. Because of that, the federal charges were filed in Key West.
Neither the attorney for Bennett, nor the attorney for family members who made a failed attempt this summer to wrest control of his wife’s assets from him, could be reached Friday for comment.