Man charged with killing wife who disappeared at sea

Lewis Bennett and his wife Isabella Hellman. (Courtesy photo)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Man charged with killing wife who disappeared at sea

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida: A man who claimed his wife disappeared at sea when their boat collided with an unknown object near the Bahamas was charged Tuesday with killing her and intentionally trying to sink the vessel to cover his tracks.
Lewis Bennett, 41, is charged with second-degree murder on the high seas in the May disappearance of Isabella Hellman, also 41, of Delray Beach, the FBI said in an affidavit filed in Miami federal court that points to financial greed as the likely motive. The affidavit also notes that Bennett did nothing to search for his wife, but he did rescue a tea set.
According to the FBI, Bennett told investigators the night his wife disappeared he had gone below deck on their boat near Cay Sal Bank, Bahamas, to sleep sometime after 8 p.m., activated the autopilot and left Hellman above to keep watch. The FBI said he falsely claimed she disappeared after the supposed accident. Her body has never been found despite an intensive search.
Investigators said they found evidence that Bennett had intentionally tried to sink the boat, which was a sailing catamaran. For example, portholes below the waterline had been opened and damage to the twin hulls appeared to have been caused from the inside, according to the FBI.
“The opening of both escape hatches is unexplainable as an accident and defies prudent seamanship,” the FBI quoted a Coast Guard expert as saying. “It appears the vessel was intentionally scuttled.”
In addition, the FBI affidavit said Bennett almost immediately got into a life raft with luggage and other items — including a tea set and a jar of peanut butter— and took no actions to find his wife. They had been married only three months and had been sailing on a delayed honeymoon to St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and Cuba.
“When asked if he used any of the flares on board the life raft to illuminate the area to facilitate a search, Bennett stated he did not. When asked if he had yelled for Hellman while in the life raft, Bennett indicated that he did not. When asked if he attempted to locate Hellman in the water near the vessel, Bennett also stated he did not,” the FBI affidavit said.
Authorities also said there were no navigational hazards in the area and no known loose objects that might cause a collision, such as a floating shipping container or another vessel.
Bennett has been attempting to get Hellman officially declared dead in Florida probate court. According to the FBI, if he did so, he would have rights to her home in Delray Beach and also access to her bank accounts.
“This would be a monetary incentive, benefiting Bennett,” the FBI affidavit said.


Trump picks Mick Mulvaney to be next chief of staff

In this file photo taken on January 20, 2018, Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, speaks during a briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 9 min 58 sec ago
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Trump picks Mick Mulvaney to be next chief of staff

  • Christie’s departure is the latest twist in a search triggered when Trump’s preferred candidate to replace Kelly bowed out

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday picked budget director Mick Mulvaney to be his next chief of staff, ending a chaotic search that had been inching forward with the feel of an unfolding reality TV show.
Trump tweeted that Mulvaney “will be named Acting White House Chief of Staff, replacing General John Kelly, who has served our Country with distinction.”
“Mick has done an outstanding job while in the Administration,” Trump posted. “I look forward to working with him in this new capacity as we continue to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! John will be staying until the end of the year. He is a GREAT PATRIOT and I want to personally thank him for his service!“
Though deemed an “acting” chief of staff, Mulvaney’s term will be open-ended, according to a senior White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters. The position does not require confirmation.
Mulvaney, who will be Trump’s third chief of staff, will now take on his third job in the administration; he is the head of the Office of Management and had simultaneously led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
A former Tea Party congressman, was among a faction on the hard right that bullied GOP leaders into a 2013 government shutdown confrontation by insisting on lacing a must-pass spending bill with provisions designed to cripple President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
The appointment of the affable, fast-talking South Carolinian came just hours after another candidate for the post, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, took himself out of contention for the job. Christie cited family reasons in a statement saying that he was asking Trump to remove him from consideration. He had met with Trump on Thursday to discuss the job, according to a person familiar with the meeting who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Christie’s departure is the latest twist in a search triggered when Trump’s preferred candidate to replace Kelly bowed out.
Trump said Thursday that he was weighing five possibilities. Among the others he considered: his 2016 deputy campaign manager David Bossie, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Trump senior aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who had also been the subject of speculation, signaled his lack of interest. A person familiar with the matter said Kushner believed that he could serve the president best in his current role. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. The names of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and even White House communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had also been floated.
The president’s hunt for a new chief reverted to square one last weekend when Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, took himself out of the running and decided that he would instead leave the White House. The announcement surprised even senior staffers who believed that Ayers’ ascension was a done deal.
Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, served for six months before leaving in July 2017.