Lewis Bennett faces eight years for involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors say he failed to properly seek help for his wife after alleged boating accident
Isabella Hellman’s family still has no answer about what happened to the woman who died at sea in 2017 during a honeymoon Caribbean cruise with her husband of three months, who has pleaded guilty to killing her.
But in court on Tuesday, they heard 41-year-old Lewis Bennett’s apology after his months of denying any involvement.
“I know that they have been through unimaginable pain as a result of my actions and for that I am truly sorry,” the husband said in a statement he read in federal court in Miami, according to the Miami Herald. “I know that my words cannot heal them, but I apologize to them from the bottom of my heart.”
Prosecutors who uncovered marital strife in the pair’s relationship alleged Bennett staged an accident — evidence shows their 37-foot catamaran was “intentionally scuttled,” with damage to the hull suggesting an attempt to sink it, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office — and failed to act in any way that might have saved his wife, who allegedly disappeared from the boat in the early hours of May 15, 2017, on a sail from Cuba to Florida.
Bennett had told authorities he was awakened by a “loud noise” while the 41-year-old Hellman, who had no boating experience, helmed the night watch alone.
“Before Bennett abandoned the catamaran and boarded the life raft, Bennett loaded various items from the vessel onto the life raft, including a suitcase, two duffle bags, a backpack, water, unexpended parachute flares, a radio transmitter, buoys, food, and silver coins,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “It was not until Bennett boarded the life raft that he called for help and reported his wife missing, approximately 45 minutes after he was awakened.”
Hellman’s body has never been recovered.
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Initially charged with second-degree murder, Bennett pleaded guilty last November to involuntary manslaughter. He was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday under a plea agreement for which he faced an agreed-upon maximum sentence of eight years in prison.
But U.S. District Court Judge Federico Moreno delayed sentencing until May 28, allowing time to address ongoing disputes between the two families over Hellman’s estate and custody of the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Emelia, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Hellman’s family tells PEOPLE through their attorney that they have been denied access to the child, who is living in abroad with Bennett’s parents. They urged the judge to reject the plea deal and slap Bennett with a harsher sentence.
“He needs to say what happened,” Hellman’s sister, Dayana Rodriguez, told the judge, reports the Herald. “She disappeared and that’s it. What happened to her? And we’re here suffering.”