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Isabella Hellmann's husband wants her presumed dead, plans to pursue through court filings

Posted at 4:55 PM, Jul 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-14 18:35:26-04
The husband of a mother missing at sea wants his wife declared dead.
Lewis Bennett plans to ask the court to presume his wife, Isabella Hellmann is dead, according to court documents.
Bennett responded to Hellmann's family's request for control over her assets with a motion to dismiss their petition. The court filings include a letter from the Coast Guard dated one day after it suspended its search for Hellmann.

The letter states that the Coast Guard cannot grant Bennett's request to presume his wife is dead.

"Their comment [the Coast Guard] in their letter is that they've stopped the search, they aren't looking for her anymore, but they don't have the legal authority to go ahead and declare her dead," said Joanne Foster, a maritime law expert.

Foster said there's no maritime law that can presume a missing person is dead, that would be up to the state.

"At this point, legally I think the best option for the family would be to go ahead and have her declared an absentee. At this point, no one knows where she is and then they can go through the steps further that it would take to have her declared deceased," said Foster.

The Coast Guard's response to Bennett is dated May 19th. Five days later he said he started his own search for his wife in Cuba. Hellmann's family said he returned to the United States three days later to take his daughter Emelia and leave the country. Bennett's motion states Isabella's sister has no authority over her assets, but he and Emelia do.

Hellmann's family has launched social media campaigns to find Isabella, gathering support and interest from all over the world. They have expressed their hope for answers and closure regarding her disappearance.

The court documents also reveal there is no existing will left behind by Hellmann.

Hellmann's sister's attorney Mitchell Kitroser said the family understands Bennett's rights to the property. There has been no hearing scheduled as of yet.

Bennett's attorney, Robert Feldman has notified the court that he will be unavailable for any court proceedings until July 17.