Missing Delray Beach woman's husband wanted 'letter of presumed death'

Sister of Isabella Hellmann battling brother-in-law Lewis Bennett in court

Lewis Bennett told the U.S. Coast Guard that he abandoned the catamaran after it started taking on water near the Bahamas but lost sight of his wife, Isabella Hellmann.
Lewis Bennett told the U.S. Coast Guard that he abandoned the catamaran after it started taking on water near the Bahamas but lost sight of his wife, Isabella Hellmann.

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – The newlywed husband of a Delray Beach woman who disappeared during a sailing trip in the Bahamas asked the U.S. Coast Guard for a "letter of presumed death" one day after the agency called off its search, according to court documents.

Isabella Hellmann disappeared on Mother's Day after the 41-year-old mother's catamaran, "Surf into Summer," struck an unknown object, causing it to take on water, husband Lewis Bennett told the Coast Guard.

Bennett, 40, was rescued the next day from a life raft about 30 miles west of Cay Sal, Bahamas. The catamaran was later found overturned in the Florida Straits.

In a May 19 letter from the Coast Guard to Bennett, Cmdr. L.A. Perciak told Bennett that the Coast Guard is not authorized to issue a letter of presumed death.

The letter is included in documents filed last month on behalf of Hellmann's sister, Adriana Difeo, in an effort to take control of Hellmann's finances.

Under Florida law, Hellmann would have to be missing for five years before being legally presumed dead.

Isabella Hellmann disappeared during a sailing trip near Cay Sal, Bahamas. The catamaran was later found overturned in the Florida Straits.

A friend of Hellmann told ABC News that before the trip, the couple had gotten into an argument about moving to Bennett's native Australia.

"She was set on, 'No, I'm not moving,'" friend Sarah Cortes said. "So he was upset about her not wanting to go with him home."

Perciak said the Coast Guard spent more than 137 hours searching 4,980 square nautical miles for Hellmann.

Another one of Hellmann's sisters, Elizabeth Rodriguez, accused Bennett of killing her sister, according to a Boca Raton police report. The incident took place while Bennett was trying to retrieve some of Hellmann's items from her sister's home.

Bennett recently moved with the couple's young daughter to the United Kingdom.

Although he was the subject of a federal investigation, Bennett has not been formally named as a suspect in her disappearance.

Hellmann was a real estate agent at Signature International Real Estate in Delray Beach.