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New murder case documents: Delray mother's words establish motive for her killing

Lewis Bennett_Isabella Hellmann.jpg
FBI charges Lewis Bennett with second degree murder in the death of his wife, lost at sea on Mother's Day in 2017. (WPEC)

“You make me crazy shouting, yelling, swearing."

Those are the words of Delray Beach mother Isabella Hellman's text message to her husband, Lewis Bennett, almost six months before her disappearance at sea.

The text message was included in a filing by federal prosecutors on Thursday. The new documents show what the couple fought about in the months before she came up missing.

Federal agents contend Bennett killed Hellman as the couple sailed between the Bahamas and Cuba in May 2017.

Agents cite experts who determined Bennett intentionally sank his catamaran to make it look like an accident.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued Bennett, but could not find Hellman.

Prosecutors charged Bennett with first-degree murder earlier this year.

This is the rare murder case without a body, but prosecutors maintain Hellman’s words help establish a motive for the murder.

“I’m tired of you telling me I’m the MOST WORSE PERSON YOU EVER MET BEFORE, everything I do it’s WRONG… this is very pathetic Lewis,” Hellman wrote in another text to Bennett.

The texts are included in a new motion from prosecutors. They want to admit Hellman’s written and verbal statements to family, friends, a doctor, and Bennett.

The statements, prosecutors say, collectively show the couple’s marriage was deteriorating.

Prosecutors say the couple fought over moving to Australia, their financial situation and how to raise their daughter. After the baby’s birth, prosecutors say the relationship changed.

The new documents reveal three months after their daughter was born, Bennett went to Australia for a kind of boxing training.

Hellman texted, “Lewis I’m happy you are doing your training, but very upset you did not tell me anything about it, till the last minute, you lied to me.“

CBS12 News asked veteran West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Gregg Lerman about the move by federal prosecutors to admit Hellman’s statements.

“Their argument is that it’s not hearsay, because it goes to state of mind,” he said.

Even if Hellman’s statements are admitted, Lerman questioned their effectiveness.

“There’s going to be financial strains, everybody has those,” Lerman said. “Is that a motive for murder? Not in my particular mind.”

Lerman said the defense could easily use the statements to their advantage.

Prosecutors also released tables showing how the couple’s finances worsened.

Also in the new filings, prosecutors disclosed after Hellman’s death, her family installed listening devices in the her Delray Beach condo.

Prosecutors hope to use recordings from those devices, including Bennett’s statements.

Attorney Lerman said he believes those recordings from the home will be hard to admit as evidence.

The couple’s baby daughter is in England with his family.

Bennett is currently set for trial in December.

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