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Date of Issue: March 25, 2009

Cumber hearing delayed

Sabine Musil-Buehler, 49
William Cumber III appears in a courtroom in Bradenton Feb. 24 on a violation of probation charge. Islander Photo: Tiffany Tompkins-Condie/Bradenton Herald

Another delay occurred last week in the state’s case against the boyfriend of missing Haley’s Motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler.

William Cumber III, 39, is awaiting a hearing on an alleged violation of probation on a 2005 felony arson conviction. The hearing was delayed last week because Cumber’s attorney was participating in another trial.

The case is not directly related to the disappearance of Musil-Buehler, whose last known whereabouts were with Cumber on Nov. 4, 2008, at an Anna Maria apartment.

But Cumber is considered a person of interest in the Island woman’s disappearance, as well as the fire on the grounds of Haley’s Motel in Holmes Beach on Nov. 16, 2008. That fire that destroyed an elevated home has been deemed an arson and remains under investigation by the Holmes Beach Police Department.

In the month after Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, Cumber left the Island, gave up the apartment they had shared in Anna Maria and reported at least one incident of vandalism at his workplace in Holmes Beach.

Repeatedly questioned by law enforcement about the fire and the whereabouts of his girlfriend, Cumber said he was being framed.

His current courtroom trouble is over the state’s allegation that he violated the conditions of his probation on an arson conviction when, in late December, he left Manatee County and was arrested in Marion County for driving with a suspended license.

Cumber served 10 days in the Marion County jail after pleading guilty to the driving charge. He then was transferred to the Manatee County jail to await a violation of probation hearing.

Twice the hearing was postponed — most recently from March 17 to April 14 because Cumber’s attorney was at a trial on another matter.

Prior to the violation of probation hearing, Manatee County Circuit Court Judge Gilbert A. Smith Jr. will hold a hearing on prosecuting attorney Tony Casoria’s motion to compel Cumber to be fingerprinted for evidence.

The motion states, “The defendant pled guilty to the new law violation on December 23, 2008, in Marion County and his fingerprints were taken. A set of known inked fingerprints from the defendant is necessary for comparison and prosecution in this cause.”

The prosecution has offered a deal on the probation case — if Cumber agrees to plead guilty, the state would seek 15 years in prison.

If Cumber rejects the deal and is eventually found guilty, he could be sentenced to 30 years in prison, Casoria said.

“That’s up to the judge,” he said.

Casoria added that the state’s deal does not include any offer of probation.

“That state is not asking for probation on that sentence,” Casoria said. “He’s not the best candidate for probation.”

Cumber’s court-appointed attorney, Thomas Ostrander, did not return The Islander’s calls.