The declaration of his wife's presumed death at sea has arrived two years after Lewis Bennett requested it, but under very different circumstances than he might've then imagined. A judge has declared May 14, 2017, as the death date for Isabella Hellmann—who was on a sailing honeymoon in the Bahamas when the couple's catamaran sank—allowing the couple's 2-year-old daughter to collect $18,000 from her mother's estate, report WPBF and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Hellmann's condominium, valued at $130,000, will be turned over to an attorney representing her parents, as Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Scott Suskauer described "no reasonable inferences or an explanation of her absence other than her presumed death at sea."
Bennett initially requested the declaration days after he was found alone in a lifeboat, claiming Hellmann disappeared as he slept below deck. Though her body was never found, police eventually charged Bennett with murder, citing evidence that he intentionally tried to sink the boat. Bennett pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in November without changing his story, though he later apologized to Hellmann's family. "I have made poor decisions which compounded a tragedy of such magnitude that I pray no one else would ever have to experience it," Bennett said in court in January, per the Sun-Sentinel. He faces up to eight years in prison at a sentencing hearing in Miami later this month. The hearing was previously delayed due to unresolved issues, including child visitation rights. (Read more Isabella Hellmann stories.)