A man who pleaded guilty in the disappearance of his wife off the coast of the Bahamas in 2017 was sentenced Tuesday morning to eight years in prison.
The judge said following his eight-year sentence, Lewis Bennett, 42, will be on supervised release for three years.
The sentencing hearing was held in a Miami federal court for Bennett, who previously pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in November.
Isabella Hellmann, who lived in Delray Beach, went missing from her husband's boat off the coast of the Bahamas in May 2017 after setting sail from St. Maarten.
After two years, Hellmann's family will finally get to see Bennett and Hellman's daughter, Emelia, who will turn 3 years old next week. They have arranged a visit with Bennett's parents in Scotland to see the child.
“All we can do is hope that the visits will go forward. They'll be a continuation of those so that Emelia grows up knowing that she has two families that love her and care about her and can support her,” said Mitch Kitroser, an attorney for the Hellman family.
Bennett reiterated his apology to his wife's family in court Tuesday.
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LEWIS BENNETT APOLOGIZES
A federal judge was supposed to sentence Bennett in January, but learned of unfinished business involving Hellmann's condo and her bank accounts.
A judge ruled the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Emelia, will receive $18,000 from Hellmann's estate. In addition, Bennett's parents, who are Emelia's legal guardians, will get ownership of Hellmann and Bennett's Delray Beach condo.
During that sentencing hearing in January, Bennett read an apology letter to Hellmann's family, saying Emelia is his only reason to go on.
"I know they have been through unimaginable pain as a result of my actions, and for that I am truly sorry," Bennett said. "I know that my words cannot heal them, but I apologize to them from the bottom of my heart and hope that one day their pain will ease."
Bennett added that losing his soulmate, Isabella, was the greatest loss he’s ever endured. He also asked a judge to allow him to get back to his daughter.
"I am merely a human whose only desire is to raise my child," Bennett said. "She has lost so much, so quickly. She will need guidance and fortitude so she may grow to be as courageous, compassionate, and caring as her mother."
MYSTERY AT SEA
The U.S. Coast Guard said Bennett initially told them he was asleep while his wife kept watch at the helm of their boat on May 14, 2017. Bennett said he woke up when he heard a thump and thought the boat had hit something.
When he went to look for his wife, Bennett said she was no longer on the boat and it had started to take on water.
The FBI said a hole in the hull of the boat was made through the inside. Investigators also said Bennett had time to load several items, including tubes of stolen coins, into his life raft before being rescued by the Coast Guard.
Bennett was sentenced in February of last year for transporting the coins and served seven months in prison.
Prosecutors were seeking a second-degree murder conviction against Bennett, but he ended up pleading to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.