Federal investigators have charged Lewis Bennett with murdering his wife of three months, Isabella Hellman, the Florida mother who disappeared last May from aboard a catamaran in the Atlantic Ocean they allege was “intentionally scuttled.”
Hellmann, a 41-year-old real estate broker, vanished while on a belated honeymoon with Bennett. The couple departed from St. Maarten in the Caribbean and traveled to Puerto Rico and Cuba before heading back to Florida.
The federal complaint, obtained by PEOPLE, alleges Bennett, who was rescued from a life raft by the Coast Guard, told investigators he was asleep below the deck of their boat when he heard the vessel hit something soon before his wife’s disappearance.
The vessel was on auto-pilot at the time, Bennett, a 41-year-old dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Australia, allegedly told the FBI.
After emerging topside, he said, there was no trace of Hellmann. He said she was wearing a life vest when he last saw her, the complaint alleges.
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Investigators allege Bennett damaged the boat from the inside, causing the catamaran to take on water.
The complaint alleges authorities consulted academics as well as the vessel’s manufacturer to confirm their suspicions that the damage to the catamaran was intentional.
The complaint alleges Bennett “wanted to ensure his own rescue and survival after murdering his wife and intentionally scuttling his catamaran.”
Bennett remains in federal custody, but information on his bail was unavailable at press time.
Information on his lawyer wasn’t immediately available.
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Court records confirm he was sentenced Tuesday morning to seven months in prison and three years of supervised release, if he’s not deported, for transporting stolen coins.
The complaint alleges Bennett was found in his life raft with rolls of gold and silver coins that had been reported stolen from a boat in St. Maarten in 2016.
The complaint says Bennett was a member of that boat’s crew at the time of the theft.
Bennett would have to report to immigration officials if he is released from jail after his transporting stolen coins conviction.