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Date of Issue: February 17, 2010

MCSO ends beach dig

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office concluded its beach excavation work last week without finding evidence in Sabine Musil-Buehler’s disappearance.

“We’re done for now,” MCSO spokesman Dave Bristow said Feb. 12, the day after the MCSO team of homicide detectives, forensics experts and equipment operators concluded its work on the beach near Magnolia Avenue in Anna Maria.

Bristow said the MCSO had additional leads to follow, but probably would not return to that area of the beach.

The excavation work, which employed two front-end loaders from the county jail compound, began Feb. 2 and continued weekdays to Feb. 11.

The activity, occurring mostly on chilly or overcast days, drew a number of spectators, who watched as the tractors dug and dumped sand, exposing a trench that forensics experts studied for any unusual changes in layers.

MCSO officials said the work had to be done.

“We would be remiss if we didn’t do it,” Bristow said, describing the dig as the most thorough search of the beach possible. “It gives us a sense that, OK, you can cross one more spot off.”

Musil-Buehler, who co-operated Haley’s Motel in Holmes Beach with estranged husband Tom Buehler, was reported missing Nov. 6, 2008.

Boyfriend William Cumber provided authorities with her last known whereabouts. The two were at their apartment on Magnolia Avenue — about three blocks from where MCSO recently searched — watching election returns Nov. 4, 2008.

Cumber said they argued about his smoking cigarettes and Musil-Buehler left in her car.

That car was recovered Nov. 6, 2008, after a chase involving MCSO deputies and Robert Corona, who was later sent to prison for stealing the vehicle, but not charged in connection with Musil-Buehler’s disappearance.

MCSO is investigating the disappearance as a homicide and detectives have identified Cumber, now in prison on an unrelated charge, as a person of interest.

While the MCSO investigation continues, Tom Buehler went to court Feb. 12 to gain the authority needed to continue operating Haley’s Motel, as well as rebuild a structure on the property destroyed by an arson fire two weeks after Musil-Buehler disappeared.

Buehler and attorney William Meeks of Bradenton appeared before Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas in a hearing that lasted about 45 minutes.

Buehler told the judge that together he and his wife operated Haley’s Motel until her disappearance.

However, through an oversight in forming the corporation, Buehler said he was not named as an officer. His wife was named president and he was a registered agent.

“Everything we did was 50/50,” Buehler said. “We both thought we were equal owners in the corporation at that point.”

The partners learned that Buehler needed to be named as vice president in September 2008, when they began the process to refinance Haley’s.

Buehler provided a document naming him vice president, but he said the original was lost in the fire.“Ninety-nine percent of all the paperwork of Haley’s was in that building,” Buehler said, referring to the two-story structure that burned in November 2008.

Buehler told Nicholas that it became even more urgent that he become a legal officer of the corporation after his wife’s disappearance.

When the matter reached the Small Business Administration, Buehler said, the SBA would not accept the application.

Nicholas took little time in ruling in favor of Buehler and instructed Meeks to draft an order finding that Buehler is an officer of the corporation, with all the authority needed to run Haley’s Motel.

Buehler’s initial filing in civil court had requested that the judge declare his wife deceased, but Meeks said that request was put on hold.