Man Sought 'Presumed Dead' Letter for New Wife, Fast

The Coast Guard dedicated 138 hours searching for her
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2017 7:23 AM CDT
Updated Jul 22, 2017 6:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – In Florida, a person must be missing for five years before a "letter of presumed death" can be issued. But in a new twist, documents reveal that Lewis Bennett requested such a letter just four days after his new wife, Isabella Hellmann, went missing and the day after the Coast Guard called off its search, reports ABC News. The couple from Delray Beach, Fla., had married three months earlier and were celebrating their marriage by sailing the Caribbean. Bennett reported their boat capsized on May 15. He says he'd been sleeping below the night of the 14th when he awoke to the sound of the boat hitting something and found the boat was taking on water; when he couldn't find his 41-year-old wife, he says he jumped into a life raft and sent out a distress call.

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The Coast Guard found Bennett on the 15th, and called off the search for Hellmann on the 18th—after spending 138 hours searching nearly 5,000 square nautical miles. The Coast Guard and FBI list it as a missing person's case with no mention of foul play, but Hellmann's sister, Adriana Difeo, has been vocal about suspecting otherwise. Difeo tried to become Hellmann's conservator to protect the couple's Delray Beach condo and pay off her debts, but has no standing given that Hellmann had no will. Bennett, as Hellmann's husband and father of their 9-month-old daughter, is the only person with standing, reports the Palm Beach Post. Bennett has since taken his daughter to the UK to "seek the comfort" of friends and family, according to a Facebook account he since deleted. (One lost-at-sea case has taken a turn.)

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