Federal prosecutors have released new images that show how Lewis Bennett killed his wife in 2017 by deliberately scuttling his own catamaran while the couple was on a belated honeymoon at sea.
The photos were included in documents prepared ahead of Bennett’s sentencing, which is set for Tuesday.
Bennett pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter last November in the death of his wife, Isabella Hellmann, who still has not been found after vanishing in the Atlantic Ocean about three months after the pair married.
Prosecutors are requesting Bennett, 41, be sentenced to at least nine years.
The images show the boat as it was before it was intentionally sunk, as well as holes punctured in the side of the boat’s hull. Federal investigators determined those holes were caused from inside the boat, contradicting Bennett’s claims the vessel started taking on water after striking an unspecified object.
Bennett was an experienced sailor.
Bennet told police he was roused from sleep by a loud noise. After emerging topside, he said, there was no trace of Hellmann, who was 41.
He said she was wearing a life vest when he last saw her, at the ship’s helm.
Experts determined Bennett staged the accident, rescuing both himself and $36,000 in rare coins he’d stolen. The United States Coast Guard eventually found him floating on the Atlantic in his life boat.
Bennett pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the coin theft and received a seven-month prison sentence.
He was charged in his wife’s death while serving that sentence.
According to prosecutors, the couple owed nearly $2,500 in property taxes and had considerable credit card debt. At one point, court documents state, they were warned their electricity would be cut because of their delinquent account.
Two weeks after his wife disappeared, Bennett purchased one-way tickets to the United Kingdom for himself and the couple’s infant daughter.
Court documents filed last year show he tried to obtain citizenship for his child.
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Bennett also attempted to have Hellmann declared legally dead seven months after he was rescued. In Florida, such a determination is typically made when someone has been missing for five years, the documents state.
Bennett would have inherited her home had a judge approved the request.
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