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Judge delays sentencing of Lewis Bennett in the disappearance, presumed death of his wife at sea

Posted at 1:07 PM, Jan 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 18:50:42-05

MIAMI — A federal judge delayed the sentencing Tuesday of a man who pleaded guilty in the disappearance of his wife off the coast of the Bahamas.

Lewis Bennett faces eight years in prison after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter back in November in the presumed death of Isabella Hellmann.

Hellmann went missing from her husband’s boat off the coast of the Bahamas in May 2017.

On Tuesday, a judge delayed Bennett's sentencing until May 28 so both sides can deal with restitution that Bennett will have to pay to the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Emelia.

During his sentencing on Tuesday, 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, who lives with Bennett's sister and her husband in Scotland.

"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."

Things got emotional in court when an attorney for Hellmann's family asked a judge to appoint an attorney ad litem to represent Emelia's interests.

Hellmann's sister broke out in tears and yelled to the judge that they want to represent Emelia. But the judge said he has no power to give access to Hellmann's family to see or share custody with Emelia.

Bennett said in court he will continue encouraging his daughter to have visitation with Hellmann’s family.

"We are very happy that from now on we are going to be a part of Emelia's life," said Adriana DiFeo, Hellmann's sister who spoke at a news conference after the sentencing hearing. "It means a lot, we're looking forward to seeing her as much as possible."

WATCH FAMILY'S NEWS CONFERENCE:

Hellmann’s sister, Dayana, told a judge she knows Bennett did something to Isabella, and he’s not paying enough for what he did.

Hellmann’s other sister, Elizabeth, cried on the stand and told the judge she forgives Bennett for taking Isabella and never bringing her back, but asked the judge to allow Hellmann's family to be part of Emelia’s life.

U.S. Attorneys asked for an eight year sentence, but Bennett's defense wanted seven years.

Hellmann's family recently wrote a letter to a judge, calling Bennett's plea outrageous.

READ THE FAMILY'S LETTER:

The Coast Guard said Bennett initially told them he was asleep while his wife kept watch at the helm of their boat. 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. The FBI 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 back in February 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.