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The boat Surf Into Summer left Cuba for Florida with Delray Beach resident Lewis Bennett, his wife of three months, Isabella Hellman, and stolen coins. By the next dawn, Hellman was missing.
Nobody ever found Hellman, but the Coast Guard did find the stolen coins.
Court - Plea - Bennett - Responsibility - May
Now, in his second federal court guilty plea of 2018, Bennett admits legal responsibility for all of the above from May 2017.
On Monday, Bennett, 41, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Hellman, a Cuban-born U.S. citizen. He will be sentenced on Jan. 10 to a term of eight years or less.
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“Lewis Bennett will now be held accountable for his wife’s death while on the high seas,” Tom Jones, acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami, said in a statement.
Charge - United - Kingdom-Australia - Citizen - Murder
The original charge facing the United Kingdom-Australia dual citizen was second-degree murder on the high seas.
In court documents, investigators pointed to a predictable motive: the money and property Hellman brought to the three-month marriage that would revert to Bennett, backed by Bennett filing for a presumptive death certificate just four months after her disappearance. In Florida, there’s a presumption of death after five years.
Bennett - Survivor - May - Cay - Sal
But Bennett is the only survivor of whatever happened on May 14, 2017, west of Cay Sal Bank, Bahamas. Even the involuntary manslaughter charge comes as much from his statements to investigators as evidence found, although Bennett’s admission of facts states prosecutors have expert testimony stating he deliberately sank the boat.
Bennett’s admission in court documents ends with something of an explanation of the involuntary manslaughter charge: He caused her death because he didn’t act as someone with his sailing experience should have acted.
Ms - Hellman
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