Family asks judge to see missing Delray Beach woman's daughter

Isabella Hellmann's parents, sisters say 'it hurts' not being able to see child

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor

The parents and sisters of Isabella Hellmann have asked a judge to see the missing Delray Beach woman's daughter, saying they haven't seen the child since Lewis Bennett took her out of the country.

MIAMI - The family of a Delray Beach woman who disappeared during a sailing trip near the Bahamas is asking a federal judge for permission to visit with the real estate agent's daughter.

Family members of Isabella Hellmann sent a three-sentence letter to U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King on Friday asking to see their granddaughter and niece. It was filed by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Rose on Sunday. 

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

Bennett 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.

"We do not want to say anything bad about Lewis, but we would like him to know how much it hurts us not to be able to see and spend time with our granddaughter and niece, Emilia, since he took her out of the country," the letter said. "Lewis knows that Isabella's mother was very much involved in caring for Emilia from the time of her birth here in Florida until she was lost at sea."

Bennett was arrested last year and pleaded guilty in federal court to knowingly transporting as much as $100,000 in stolen coins while working as a mate aboard a yacht in 2016.

Lewis Bennett, whose wife disappeared during a sailing trip, was arrested on an unrelated charge in August 2017.

Before his arrest, Bennett asked the Coast Guard for a "letter of presumed death" the day after the search for Hellmann ended, but Cmd. L.A. Perciak said the agency was not authorized to do so.

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

Bennett, who has been in jail since his arrest, faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Tuesday.

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