Many folks know that planning a wedding can be a long and arduous process. Yet, those same people might also know that the event itself, and the happy times that come after, are well worth the effort. For most newlyweds, the final tying of the knot can represent a reaffirmation of the love that brought them together in the first place.
Sadly, this isn’t the case for everyone. Sometimes, a wedding can just be further proof that the person you thought you fell in love with isn’t the same person with whom you walked down the aisle. This was something Isabella Hellman eventually discovered as well. Only by then, it was too late…
Isabella Hellmann was the type of self-made modern woman that many young girls wish they could be. The suburban Delray Beach real estate broker had the world at her fingertips and yet, she still felt as though she was lacking something. She wanted someone to share her life with, but real estate is a time-intensive business. This meant that meeting someone in her “spare time” was going to be difficult.
Meeting the One
In 2015, Isabella decided to do what so many busy men and women have in order to meet that special someone; she made an online dating profile. Pretty soon she was meeting up with prospective partners for random dates. It wasn’t until she encountered Lewis Bennett, however, that she thought she’d hit the jackpot…
Isabella and Lewis hit it off right away. Before long, they were living together and soon after that, they found out that Isabella was pregnant. By July of the following year, the happy couple had welcomed little Emelia into their lives. Their family was growing faster than they expected, but they couldn’t deny how much it seemed that fate had a plan for them.
They went through all the requisite wedding planning and finally tied the knot in February of 2017. Their tropical honeymoon was planned for a few months later. Isabella was on her own on April 30th, flying out to St. Maarten to meet Lewis at his catamaran. It would end up being a vacation neither of them would ever forget…
The two set sail later that day. It wasn’t going to be a long vacation, but long enough to wear away the stress of Isabella’s job and their parental duties. By May 1st, they were in Puerto Rico and within a day of that, they had made it to the British Virgin Islands. Photos posted to Isabella’s Facebook made it clear that the newlyweds were enjoying their honeymoon.
Bound for Cuba
The couple made it to a few other islands before ending up in Cuba. On May 14, at around 5:30 in the evening, Isabella and Lewis sailed away from Cuba for what would be the very last time. Around 1 a.m. that very night, the local Coast Guard got a call from Lewis Bennett. It was a distress signal…
Bennett had called them because his catamaran had apparently struck something while he was asleep below decks. When he rushed topside to see what had happened, he found no sign of his new wife. He worried that Isabella had perhaps gone overboard but he couldn’t find her anywhere. The Coast Guard mobilized and sailed out to meet him.
Bennett was rescued and flown to the Florida Keys, but the Coast Guard spent the better part of four days searching for his wife to no avail. Eventually, they had to call off the search. Isabella Hellmann had mysteriously disappeared and the ensuing investigation would reveal much more about Lewis Bennett that his wife could ever have known…
The mysterious case of Isabella suspicious disappearance first begins with Bennett’s swift departure from the United States following the incident. In June of 2017, he told his Facebook friends that he had gone to England to visit family with his daughter Emelia. Some people could understand his reasoning, but it certainly didn’t dissuade people from believing he might somehow be responsible.
In His Possession
There was no doubt that Bennett was hiding something, though it wouldn’t be until August of 2017 that the public found out what it was. He had apparently returned to Florida only to be arrested while carrying tens of thousands of dollars in valuable stolen coins that, like Isabella, had “gone missing” in 2016 while he was working as a mate on a yacht in the Caribbean…
Bennet was now being held on federal coin theft charges and would remain in custody until he was sentenced to seven months in prison in February of 2018. It was on that same day, as Bennett was receiving his sentence, that the prosecution his him with some more bad news. He was also charged with second-degree murder.
A Girl Adrift
Meanwhile, Isabella and Bennett’s daughter Emelia was living with Bennett’s parents in England and Scotland. She remained with them the whole time her father was incarcerated and Hellmann’s family has only seen her via the internet since that time. Things would change, of course, as soon as the FBI became involved in Bennett’s murder case…
Though the FBI didn’t really know it at first, they were certain that Bennett had killed his wife and staged her death to make it look like an accident. They alleged that his plan was to bore holes in both of his catamaran’s hulls from the inside while popping open two of the portholes below the water line. Isabella would drown in the sinking ship, unaware that her husband had caused it all.
It made sense, considering that when they found Bennett he was on a life raft complete with food, water, a satellite phone, and a homing device. He seemed to have concentrated all his efforts to loading the raft with supplies, but only put minimal effort into finding his wife; both before and after the Coast Guard arrived…
Even if Bennett had killed his wife, the motive still eluded investigators. Isabella wasn’t poor, but she had a modest estate of about $171,000; not really worth all that much in the grand scheme of things. She also owed about $8,524 to credit card companies, which was money her newly bereaved husband would be on the hook to pay back.
There were some other strange things about Bennett’s behavior during the trial as well. For instance, his request to have Isabella declared dead only a few months after she had vanished. She would ultimately be declared dead in May of 2019, but only because the statute of limitations had run out. Still, why had Bennett wanted it to happen so early if he wasn’t guilty?
The lack of evidence was still a problem, however. The case against the 42-year-old could not continue to court without it. So the prosecutor’s offered Bennett a deal. He was given the option of either seven or eight years rather than the life term he previously faced for second-degree murder. In the end, he took the deal and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
U.S. Court Judge Federico Moreno presided over the sentencing and offered a grim expression of sympathy to Isabella’s half-dozen family members seated in the courtroom that day. He explained that he was sorry and that unfortunately, Bennett’s guilty plea for non-voluntary manslaughter allowed for only the type of sentence that would be commensurate with what the defendant had admitted…
Playing for More
Bennett pushed his luck a bit in the courtroom as well. Asking for time to be with his daughter and requesting that his lawyer argue for a shorter prison term. “Sentencing is for punishment,” said Judge Moreno, scowling. Bennett’s presumption notwithstanding, the ending to this mystery is more sweet than bitter.
Isabella Hellmann’s family is set to travel to Scotland in the coming weeks to visit little Emelia for the first time. We may never know what really happened to Isabella, but at least there is some comfort in knowing that some amount of justice has been served. In the end, you never really know who you can trust, even the father of your children.