Nine months ago, newlywed couple Lewis Bennett and Isabella Hellman left their 9-month-old daughter behind in Florida to embark on a romantic honeymoon, sailing from Cuba to the Bahamas.
The catamaran trip was meant to be a sun-soaked vacation to celebrate their three months of marriage. But on May 15, their boat sank under mysterious circumstances, according to earlier reports.
Bennett was able to escape on a life raft after he said he awoke to water rushing in, but his 41-year-old wife was never seen again.
But now, police believe they may know what happened to her.
— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) May 17, 2017
Shortly after the accident, search crews found Bennett aboard his raft with an “usually heavy” backpack other goods he’d salvaged from the wreckage.
Authorities soon discovered the bag was full of silver and gold coins that Bennett appeared to have stolen from a ship he previously worked on.
They were valued at over $100,000, according to earlier reports. He was later charged with transporting stolen goods.
And as the search for Hellman continued, her husband started exhibiting suspicious behavior.
He asked a judge to issue a “letter of presumed death,” which are usually reserved for people missing for at least five years.
That way, he could take over ownership of her condo, The Washington Post reports. His request was repeatedly denied.
And now, he’s in police custody for her death.
— Tom Elia (@TEliaPBPost) June 16, 2017
According to CNN, an affidavit issued over the weekend by an FBI agent says that the husband intentionally sunk their boat and that there is “probable cause to believe that … Bennett … killed Hellman.”
Authorities said that a naval architecture expert determined that escape hatches were intentionally left open in order to cause flooding.
Bennett admitted that he did not attempt to search for his wife after the boat started to sink, but according to the Associated Press, the affidavit states he did take the time to rescue a tea set from the water.
Authorities concluded that the husband likely killed Hellmann for “monetary incentive.” He would have gained access to her home and bank accounts if she was declared dead, the AP reports.
Bennett was charged with second-degree murder on the high seas. Hellmann’s body has yet to be recovered. It is unclear who has custody of the couple’s daughter at this time.