Lewis Bennett: Husband Convicted for Isabella Hellman’s Death

Investigation Discovery’s ‘Vengeance Killer: Newlyweds: Honeymoon Horror’ chronicles how 41-year-old Isabella Hellman disappeared while on a yacht trip to the Caribbean in mid-May 2017. The authorities initially deemed the tragic incident during her belated honeymoon trip as an accident. However, they soon started poking holes in the testimonies and finding incriminating evidence that made them think otherwise. The episode leaves the viewers wondering about the perpetrator’s identity and current whereabouts.

How Did Isabella Hellman Die?

The US Coast Guard responded to an SOS signal from international waters off the South Florida Coast around 1:30 am on May 15, 2017. Shortly afterward, a satellite call was received from Lewis Bennett, indicating that the distress signal was originating from his boat. Lewis, situated in a life raft approximately 26 nautical miles off the coast of Cay Sal Bank, closest to the Bahamas, reported that the catamaran he and his wife, Isabella Hellman, were sailing had capsized. Disturbingly, he did not know the whereabouts of his wife.

He asserted that their catamaran had collided with an object, leading to rapid water ingress. Forced to abandon the vessel, Lewis sought refuge in a lifeboat as the catamaran sank. Search teams were promptly deployed to locate the missing couple, and the Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter equipped with a search beacon. They discovered Lewis in the lifeboat and rescued him at 4:30 am, though his 41-year-old wife could not be found. Isabella Hellman, born in Colombia in November 1975, hailed from a close-knit family.

Growing up, she was described as happy and well-adjusted, cherishing her childhood. Driven by a desire for success, she moved to the United States, initially working at a bank before becoming a real estate agent in Delray Beach, Florida. After marrying in 2002 and becoming a naturalized US citizen, she brought her family to live with her, buying them a home in Boca Raton. Following an amicable divorce after a decade of marriage, Isabella met Lewis Richard Bennett, a 40-year-old UK and Australian mining engineer, through a dating site in 2015.

Who Killed Isabella Hellman?

Despite Lewis’ extensive time spent sailing, the two fell in love shortly after meeting in person. Their relationship deepened when Isabella became pregnant just a few months into their courtship, leading them to marry at a courthouse in February 2017. Since they could not go on a honeymoon trip due to the birth of their daughter, the newlyweds settled on a belated trip four months after their wedding. They planned on sailing to Cuba, the Bahamas, and St. Maarten on Lewis’ catamaran in May 2017, leaving their nine-month-old with her parents.

The authorities employed divers with cameras to check the submerged catamaran, attempting to check whether the unfortunate mother was trapped inside. Meanwhile, Lewis was transported to Marathon, Florida, where the officials took his statement. According to the show, the newlyweds started from St. Maarten and traveled through the Caribbean, ultimately reaching Cuba as their last destination before starting for Florida at 5:30 pm on May 14. The husband claimed he slept around 8:00 pm as Isabella steered the boat on the fateful night.

Lewis,  usually slept for two or three hours, leaving Isabella at the helm. However, he was awoken by a loud noise and failed to find Isabella. He claimed it was a chaotic scene with the sails flailing and him dropping the main sail to buy him time to save the vessel. The authorities could not get much more information from the husband, who seemed shocked and distressed. They tried to determine the cause of what the boat might have hit before it sunk but found no plausible reason, including migratory whale paths or stormy weather.

While the investigators could not examine the catamaran as it had sunk into the ocean depths, they cataloged the life raft to find some coins worth tens of thousands of dollars. It seemed an odd thing to pack during an emergency, and the officers were further suspicious by Lewis’ demeanor when he called the police while forcibly taking his daughter from Isabella’s family. The authorities executed several federal search warrants, including the erstwhile missing woman’s iCloud. They discovered the couple had frequent fights over raising their child.

Amid their investigation, the police discovered text messages documenting heated arguments over a proposed move to Australia and the couple’s precarious financial situation. Simultaneously, Lewis made an unusual request to the authorities, seeking a legal declaration of Isabella’s death just days after the search concluded. He explained that he needed the document for a subsequent visit to Cuba to search for his wife, whom he believed had swum to Cuba, a notion dismissed by investigators as implausible.

Nevertheless, Lewis proceeded to book tickets to the UK with their daughter, as the police lacked grounds to prevent his June 28 travel. However, a breakthrough came when a confidential witness accused Lewis of stealing coins in 2016 while employed as a mate on a yacht in the Caribbean. This revelation provided sufficient evidence for a search warrant for the couple’s residence in Delray Beach. The search uncovered additional stolen gold coins and listening devices covertly planted by Isabella’s family, aiming to capture incriminating conversations.

Federal authorities arrested Lewis in West Palm Beach on August 28 on charges of transporting stolen items, marking a significant development in the ongoing investigation. While he remained in federal custody, the investigators checked images and videos of the catamaran to find evidence of it being sunk intentionally. Lewis admitted to smuggling $100,000 in stolen coins the night his wife disappeared in December 2017 and was sentenced to seven months on February 20, 2018. He was charged with second-degree murder the same day.

Where is Lewis Bennett Now?

During Lewis’ 2018 trial, the prosecution claimed that despite being an experienced sailor with Royal Yachting Association certification, he did not require Isabella to wear safety gear during her night watch. Even after he found his wife had disappeared, Lewis did not follow emergency procedures, such as deploying flares or searching for her with the catamaran or dinghy. He abandoned the inoperable vessel, loaded items onto the life raft, and only called for help 45 minutes after awakening, raising suspicions about his actions.

Lewis, of Poole, Dorset, pled guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge regarding Isabella’s death on November 5, 2018. He also gave up his right to appeal or any claim on the couple’s estate, valued at $160,000. On May 14, 2019, exactly two years after she went missing, a judge declared Isabella “is presumed to have died on May 14, 2017.” He was sentenced to eight years on May 28, 2019, and ordered to pay $22,910 in restitution to his daughter, then three. Lewis will serve three years on supervised release after completing his prison term. He, now 46, is incarcerated at FCI Oakdale II and will be released on December 15, 2024.

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