Sending their own message to a federal judge, the family of a Delray Beach mom lost at sea wants the judge to know something about their feelings before he sentences her husband Tuesday.
Isabella Hellmann's family wrote a letter to the judge telling him they don't want to say anything about Lewis Bennett, but they want Bennett to know they're deeply hurt by how he's separated them from his and Hellmann's now 17-month-old daughter.
Lewis Bennett could get up to a decade in prison for transporting stolen coins; a potential sentence that terrifies Isabella Hellmann's sister.
"I'm afraid I'm not going to see Emelia ever again," said Dayana Rodriguez, Hellmann's sister.
The only thing Dayana says she has left from her sister, who was lost at sea last May while on a trip with her husband Lewis Bennett, is their daughter Emelia.
Two weeks after Hellmann went missing from her husband's boat while they were in the Florida Straits, Bennett took his daughter Emelia out of the country. Hellmann's family says it was against their wishes.
Even after Bennett's arrest, he continued to reject their requests to see Emelia. In their most recent email conversation, Dayana claims Bennett's sister in the United Kingdom sent her a picture of Emelia and mapped out conditions on when Hellmann's family might see the child again.
"She said, 'I’m not going to let you see the baby until my brother is out of jail.' What if he doesn’t come out for another 10 years? What if 2 years? We don’t know, so that means Emelia is just going to forget about us," said Rodriguez.
Hellmann's mother said she knows nothing about the FBI investigation into her daughter's disappearance, only that it is still ongoing.
"What happened that night, the only ones who know are God and Lewis," said Amparo Alvarez in Spanish.
In a letter to the judge, Hellmann's family says they want Bennett to know how much it hurts that he's kept Emelia from them.
"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. 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 [Isabella] was lost at sea," says the letter signed by Hellmann's parents and three sisters.
The family has not been in communication with Bennett but did attend the federal hearing in November when Bennett changed his plea to guilty in the federal coin case. Hellmann's niece said she felt like she lost her aunt, uncle, and cousin all from one tragedy.
"I'm really sad because Lewis, he was actually my best friend. We would do everything together and he just left me," said Sofia Maz, Hellmann's niece. "I've always wanted to talk about with him what I feel, what I feel that he has done."
In September Bennett filed a petition to declare his wife dead. The judge said she would not consider their request until Bennett was available to testify in her courtroom. That has not happened.