In less than two weeks a judge will sentence Lewis Bennett in connection with the disappearance of his wife Isabella Hellmann of Delray Beach.
Bennett, who has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, faces a maximum penalty of eight years in prison. Hellmann went missing from her husband’s boat off the coast of the Bahamas in May 2017 and is presumed dead.
Hellmann's parents and sisters oppose the plea, are calling it outrageous, and have written a letter to the judge expressing their displeasure.
They say Bennett did nothing to look for Hellmann and scuttled his own boat to save himself and stolen gold coins in his possession.
"... we strongly believe that a plea to involuntary manslaughter is not only insufficient but actually less consistent with the facts that an acquittal or murder conviction would be. In essence this plea is a compromise and while we can understand the prosecutor's desire to move on from what is a difficult case, we are not so willing to move on," the family wrote in its letter.
Family members also said they haven't seen Hellmann's daughter Emelia for 18 months since she was taken from them to live with Bennett's family in the United Kingdom. They say they have had limited Facetime access to her. They say they are raising the issue to show that Bennett is not a repentant man.
The family said it would rather see the case go to trial even if it resulted in a not guilty verdict.
In closing, the family asked for a plea and a sentence "consistent with what he has done, what he has taken, and what all the rest of us have lost." If not, they contend justice and the rights of victims in the case will have been pushed aside.
Bennett is scheduled to be sentenced on January 29, 2019.