Two years, almost to the day, after a Delray Beach woman presumably was lost at sea while honeymooning with her husband in the Bahamas, a judge legally and officially has declared her dead, court records show.
By officially declaring Hellmann’s death, the judge has cleared the way for the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Emelia, to inherit $18,000 from her mother’s modest estate.
Isabella Hellmann’s husband, Lewis Bennett, is scheduled to be sentenced in his wife’s death later this month.
Bennett, 42, entered into a plea bargain with prosecutors in November and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after repeatedly claiming he had been asleep below deck when the couple’s catamaran got into trouble, took on water and sank.
His 41-year-old wife had been at the helm and disappeared, Bennett said, when he later was rescued in a lifeboat.
“As Isabella Hellman has not been heard from nor seen since being lost at sea on May 14, 2017 … there are no reasonable inferences or an explanation of her absence other than her presumed death at sea,” Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Scott Suskauer wrote in a May 9 order.
A copy of Hellmann’s completed death certificate was included in court filings. She had no will.
Records show that the judge also ordered the FBI to give the keys to Hellmann’s condominium to an attorney representing her parents so that it can be sold. The condo is valued at $130,000 and Hellmann’s bank accounts totaled $41,117.
The judge ordered that $18,000 go into Emelia’s, who turns three in July, trust account. The little girl now lives with Bennet's parents in Scotland. $20,000 will go toward attorney’s fees and the rest will go toward paying creditors.
When Bennett, a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Australia, goes before a federal judge on May 28 in Miami, he faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.
When Bennett made an apology in court in January to Hellmann’s family, he said: “I know that they have been through unimaginable pain as a result of my actions and for that I am truly sorry.”
He did not describe what happened to Hellmann the night she vanished. Despite a four-day ocean search, Hellmann’s body was never found.
Maximum of eight years?