Monday, June 19, 2017

FBI Searches Home Of Florida Mom Who Vanished At Sea



Friday’s all-day raid of Isabella Hellmann’s condominium dispelled any idea that authorities are satisfied the woman’s vanishing was an accident.

About 20 FBI investigators Friday morning pushed through yellow evidence tape that the agency had used weeks earlier to seal the front door of the unit, which Hellmann shared with Lewis Bennett, her husband since February and the father of their 10-month-old daughter.

FBI spokesman Michael D. Leverock said Friday morning in a statement that the agency “initiated a court-authorized search” at about 9 a.m. as “part of the investigation into the disappearance of Isabella Hellmann.”

Bennett has told the U.S. Coast Guard he was awakened early on May 15 — one month ago Thursday — after the 37-foot catamaran Surf into Summer struck something about 30 miles west of Cay Sal in the Bahamas.

He said he came topside to find that the vessel was taking on water and Hellmann was gone. A Coast Guard helicopter rescued Bennett in a life raft about three hours later.

A four-day Coast Guard search failed to find Hellmann, 41. Both the Coast Guard and the FBI confirmed May 26, eight days after the search was called off, that they were conducting a “missing person investigation.”

Neither agency has said whether Bennett is a target of their investigation or even if they suspect foul play.

But on June 1, the FBI sealed the front door of the couple’s condo at Pine Ridge at Delray with the yellow evidence tape.

On Friday morning, neighbor Anne Fennimore, whose condo is on the second story immediately above Hellmann’s residence, said she and other neighbors were ordered to stay inside as agents approached the front door downstairs.

“One yelled that they had a warrant to search the place, and then broke the (tape) to get inside,” Fennimore told The Post. She said she saw six crime-scene technicians in latex gloves enter the condo. They appeared to find no one inside, she said.

At the complex, near the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Florida’s Turnpike, federal authorities had arrived in unmarked black SUVs and an unmarked sedan pulling a small trailer containing items marked “investigative material.” Palm Beach County sheriff’s vehicles blocked access.

The Coast Guard on Friday said it continued to work with the FBI but had no comment.

The Coast Guard has confirmed it has lost track of the catamaran. And a relative of Hellman’s has said authorities have told the family the boat sank in more than 4,000 feet of water.

On May 24, the Coast Guard said responders inspected the boat “the best they could from the surface” and never saw what it might have struck. But the agency did say at the time that the hulls had neither visible holes nor obvious places where water could have filled them. A Coast Guard photo shows the catamaran upside down with one pontoon below the surface and the other above the water line. Another shows the entire boat floating just below the surface.

On Thursday, family and friends used the one-month anniversary of the disappearance to post videos on a “Find Isabella” Facebook page.

Friends have said the family fears Bennett and the baby have left the United States. Family members, friends and neighbors have said Hellmann told them she and her husband argued regularly over Bennett’s desire to return with her and the baby to Australia; Bennett has dual British-Australian citizenship.

7 comments:

NoseyNeighbor said...

How did they have the catamaran and then lose it?

What do the Australian authorities have to say about this?

I wonder why he was so bent on going back? Why didn't she want to go? Even for a year or two?

JustReading said...

"The Coast Guard has confirmed it has lost track of the catamaran."
OK...how does that happen?
Did they not tow it back & just left it there? That seems odd.
Did they tow it back and then lose it? Odder.
Maybe he took it to Australia.
Looks like this investigation is a clusterf*ck.

Renshaw said...

This question has been asked all over so I did a little search. I think the headline 'the CG found and lost the vessel' is incorrect. It has long been debated that the CG's function to search and rescue should include salvaging as opposed to having it contracted out. They found the thing and then it sank before any salvaging could begin. I would hope the divers at least searched the catamaran for her before it sank.
The Australian can't do squat unless the US formally begins an investigation with him as POI. Now he is there with the baby.
Marrying foreign nationals present it's own set of issues when they want to resettle in their homeland with you and kids. That discussion should be on the table before marriage.

Phyllis Whitweed said...

Thanks for looking into it, Renshaw. Quite enlightening.

HH314 said...

Hmm this is an odd search. Either the Feds believe he killed her at home and dumped the body with the boat or they just caught on he fled the country and they're out of physical evidence and got desperate. Either way they're f$&cked. Here is a suggestion: check if there is a life insurance policy taken on her. That guy is long gone with his baby. Money may be the only thing to draw him out. Also don't believe for a second she got killed because of disagreement over where to live, this is a bogus reason

numoon6 said...

Man, that sucks! I'm sure he killed her.

numoon6 said...

no they don't secure boats unless floating and if the vessel is sea-worthy they MIGHT tow it for evidence. this one was too badly damaged and sinking. in shallower water, they can be recovered with inflatable air bags but not out that far. marianas trench - deep deep water that moves very fast. Sounds like he axed the boat himself.