UPDATE: 1 pm ET:
WPTV 5 reports that the FBI filed second-degree murder charges against Lewis Bennett on Tuesday. According to the federal complaint obtained by the news station, investigators have accused Bennett of damaging the catamaran from the inside, causing it to flood and eventually sink while he and his wife of three months were on board last May.
Bennett was taken into federal custody on Tuesday while in a Miami courthouse for sentencing on theft charges.
After nine months with few known leads in the investigation, the husband of Isabella Hellman, a new mother who disappeared at sea last may, has been charged with homicide in connection with his wife’s disappearance.
The Palm Beach Post reports Hellmann’s husband Lewis Bennett, who was alone with his wife of three months on his catamaran in the Atlantic Ocean when she purportedly fell overboard last May, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Bennett’s attorney confirmed the charges on Tuesday, the same day Bennett was sentenced for charges related to stolen coins found with Bennett after he escaped the sinking catamaran last May on a lifeboat. Bennett, who initially denied the theft charges before pleading guilty in November to stealing over $100,000 worth of gold and silver coins, was reportedly sentenced to seven months in prison and three years probation.
The attorney did not offer any specifics about the homicide charges or explain what prompted them. The FBI and local authorities have been tight-lipped about the missing persons investigation since Hellmann, 41, vanished last May, and had not until this point named Bennett as a suspect. The woman’s body was never found, and the Coast Guard called off the missing persons search just a few days after her disappearance. The couple was purportedly on a delayed honeymoon trip at the time of her disappearance. They had been married for nine months and had a nine month old daughter at the time. Now 18 months old, the little girl is at the center of a custody dispute between Bennet, who has dual Australian and British citizenship, and Hellmann’s surviving family, who live in Florida.
This is a developing story. CrimeOnline will provide an update when more information is available.
[Feature image: Lewis Bennett and Isabella Hellman/Facebook]