Story Tools

Date of Issue: December 17, 2008

Investigations continue in disappearance, fire

/12-17-08/haleys-musil-buehler-mug.jpg
Sabine Musil-Buehler has been missing since Nov. 4. The missing person report describes her as about 5'6", 136 pounds, with silver hair, green eyes and a German accent.

Investigators seeking to solve the disappearance of a Holmes Beach resident and a fire at her motel say they are making progress.

“We still feel confident we can get to the bottom of this,” Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dave Bristow said Dec. 11. “We’re working some angles.… We’re working on some different things and we will end up solving this.”

The MCSO is the lead investigating agency looking into the disappearance of Sabine Musil-Buehler, 49, who, along with husband Tom, owns Haley’s Motel, 8102 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Musil-Buehler was reported missing on Nov. 6, after her car was found in Bradenton, allegedly stolen from behind a 14th Street bar by Robert Corona.

The last known person to see Musil-Buehler is her boyfriend, William Cumber III, who said the couple had an argument while watching election news on Nov. 4. At about 10 p.m., Musil-Buehler left the residence in Anna Maria.

Meanwhile, the Holmes Beach Police Department has taken the lead in investigating a fire that destroyed the elevated garden house at the motel. The fire took place on Nov. 16, a cold Sunday night two weeks after Musil-Buehler’s disappearance.

Sources have described the cause of the fire as “suspicious,” “undetermined” and “intentionally set” and the case remains open pending the results of forensic testing.

Fire officials said the blaze destroyed the building, while the main motel complex did not suffer damage.

Two exotic birds were lost in the fire.

“They’re just gone,” Tom Buehler said last week.

Friends and family have said that they knew as early as Nov. 6 that something was wrong in Musil-Buehler’s life because she would never leave her animals uncared for.

One of the Buehlers’ birds, Giacomo, a Hahn’s macaw, continues to greet guests to Haley’s Motel.

But two others perished in the fire — Sunshine, an African ringneck, and Ferris, a monk parrot.

“They were right at the main part of the fire,” Buehler said.

If the fire investigation leads to a prosecution, legal expert Jennifer Dietz, a Tampa attorney and professor of animal law at Stetson Law School, said authorities possibly could pursue two felony cruelty to animal charges under Florida Statute 828.12.

A conviction on such a charge could result in a $10,000 fine and up to five years in jail.

Dietz said if someone set the fire, they likely knew the birds were on the premises. “Birds are pretty vocal,” she said.

Buehler said a lot was lost in the fire, but “Sabine being missing is the most important thing right now.”

Fire investigations can be quick or they can be lengthy, depending on the circumstances and the type of evidence under review, said Sam Venzeio of the Florida Fire Marshal’s Office. Some investigations get closed within a week and others, he said, can take a year or more.

Speaking in general terms and not specifically to the Haley’s investigation, Venzeio said forensic analysis involves “precise technical testing.”

Early in the investigation, HBPD Chief Jay Romine said the fire was “suspicious” given the circumstances involved.

Days after the fire, Cumber, who recently served prison time for arson, told the press he felt he was being framed.

He has been identified by authorities as a “person of interest.”

Earlier this month, several people reported seeing investigators searching Cumber’s residence after he moved out.

Last week, a source told The Islander that the MCSO collected mail that Cumber left behind when he moved to Bradenton, including letters between Cumber and Musil-Buehler.

Bristow declined to comment on that report. “We’re not going to talk about any of the evidence,” he said.

“We’re still investigating this,” he added. “We’re putting a lot of time into this.… I think we’re making progress.”

The Manatee County Crime Stoppers is asking for tips in the case and has posted details of Musil-Buehler’s disappearance on its Web site at www.manateecrimestoppers.com.

Friends and family of the missing woman also have opened an account at Whitney Bank, 5324 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, to collect reward money for information that helps locate Musil-Buehler.

For weeks, few donated to the reward fund, which a month after Musil-Buehler’s disappearance contained less than $500, according to Silvia Zadarosni, who opened the account.

Last week, a single anonymous donation more than doubled the reward fund, Zadarosni said.

Whitney Bank reported additional fund donations, which will be turned over to Wildlife Inc. if the money is not used for a reward.

“I really think the reward is going to make a difference to people,” Zadarosni said.

Six weeks after Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, Bristow said, “You would think [witnesses] would have come forward if they had seen something or they had any information.”

However, he said, there now may be new witnesses, people who recently may have heard something relevant to the investigations.

“If somebody knows something, it would certainly be appreciated if they’d give it up at this point,” Bristow said. “If you are hearing anything about this case, let us know.”

People with information related to Musil-Buehler’s disappearance can call the MCSO at 941-747-3011, or Crime Stopper’s at 866-634-8477. People with information related to the fire can call HBPD at 941-778-5807.

 

Musil-Buehler reward fund

Friends and family of Sabine Musil-Buehler have established a fund for a reward for information in the case.

Donations can be made at Whitney Bank, 5324 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, in the name of the Sabine Buehler Benefit Fund.