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

Police: Man stays at bar for 30 minutes after being stabbed
Police: Man stays at bar for 30 minutes after being stabbed

A man who was stabbed early Thursday morning while at a Pittsburgh bar remained at the establishment for 30 minutes before leaving, investigators said. Police were called about 2 a.m. to a residential area near Pollock’s Cafe. Investigators said the 40-year-old victim was stabbed in the shoulder after he apparently got into a fight with another...
Arizona teachers approve strike, will walk out next Thursday
Arizona teachers approve strike, will walk out next Thursday

Arizona teachers voted in favor of a strike Thursday night as the educators demanded higher wages and better classroom conditions, KTAR reported. The walkout is scheduled for next Thursday. “Seventy-eight percent of the school employees in this state said yes,” Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association said during...
2 Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant
2 Florida deputies shot, killed at restaurant

Two Florida sheriff’s deputies were killed Thursday, shot through the window of a Chinese restaurant as they shared a meal, The Gainesville Sun reported. The man who allegedly shot the Gilchrist County deputies was found dead in a car outside the restaurant, authorities said. Deputy Taylor Lindsey, 25, and Sgt. Noel Ramirez, 29, were...
Little progress year after Jupiter bought lot to ease traffic woes
Little progress year after Jupiter bought lot to ease traffic woes

It’s been a year since the Town of Jupiter bought a 2-acre lot next to Jupiter High School with the goal of improving safety for motorists. But since the $2.8 million purchase on April 4, 2017, little progress has been made. “We have cleared the land,” said Mayor Todd Wodraska about the vacant property, which had become a dumping...
Palm Beach Gardens voters to get 3 ballot questions in August
Palm Beach Gardens voters to get 3 ballot questions in August

Palm Beach Gardens voters may have a sense of deja vu come August when they see similar questions on their ballots to those that appeared in March. Palm Beach Gardens is revisiting proposed changes to term limits and the city charter, after a judge tossed questions from the March ballot. The judge determined the questions were misleading after the...
More Stories