HOLMES BEACH - Haley’s Motel co-owner Sabine Musil-Buehler was like a member of the family to Sage Hall.
Referring to her in the past tense comes hard, judging by the catch in her throat.
Musil-Buehler has been missing since Nov. 4, when she reportedly argued with live-in boyfriend William Cumber, 208-B Magnolia Ave., a suspect in her disappearance. Her husband and business partner, Tom Buehler, also has been questioned by police, as has another man, Robert Corona, who was found driving her car shortly after she disappeared, told inconsistent stories about whether he knew her, and was arrested for theft.
“She was like an aunt in the family,” said Hall, who owns a videography business, Star Fruit Productions, which she says Musil-Buehler helped her set up.
“She was my first client,” Hall said. “I did a video of her at Haley’s talking with her birds and telling people about all the things to do on the Island.”
After a duplex at Haley’s, 8104 Gulf Drive, mysteriously burned down on Sunday night, Hall put the video on You Tube with Crimestoppers contact information. The fire is under investigation as a possible arson.
Just before the fire, which was reported at 7:19 p.m., Hall was videotaping a wedding at Roser Church and the nearby Sandbar Restaurant.
“I was shooting a wedding that Sabine had set up for me,” she said. “It just got weirder and weirder. Around 7 p.m., me and Tom (Buehler) got together and we smelled fire.” The two commented that it smelled like a wood fire in a fireplace. It turned out to be the wooden Haley’s building on fire.
Hall’s mother, Bradenton resident Debbie Hall, says she’s “just baffled.”
“I have not felt good about this,” she said. “As much as everyone wants to speculate that she just left town, I don’t believe anyone saw her at the airport.”
Island business owner Nancy House and her friend Janean Martin said that they saw a woman who looked like Musil-Buehler at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Nov. 13, but waited to report it until they returned from a cruise and learned about the Haley’s fire on Sunday.
House said she had accompanied her daughter on a job interview at Haley’s with Musil-Buehler, and knew her face, voice and German accent, and heard the woman at the airport speaking German.
She didn’t report it to security guards because “There was not time,” she said. “When things like that happen to you, you think nobody would believe it.”
“I guess we should have taken the time to go back, but it’s not like we had a lot of time at the airport,” Martin said.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is “99.9 percent sure” that a woman on the airport video surveillance tape is not Musil-Buehler, according to spokesman Dave Bristow.
“She was not at the airport, that’s crazy,” Tom Buehler said. “She (House) didn’t tell anybody? Or tell her, ‘Everybody’s looking for you?’ ”
“If she knew her, why did she not say to security, ‘That’s Sabine?’ ” Debbie Hall asked.
Hall said she received a call from a psychic who said Musil-Buehler was in a building with a linoleum floor near 14th Street in Bradenton, near where her car was found. Hall went on a search for the building, found one that fit the description, and called police.
Bristow said nothing came of the report.
Police have nearly eliminated Corona, the driver of her car, as a suspect, he said.
“The guy probably never met her. We’re dealing with people who knew her,” he said. “Someone out there has more information than they’re giving up.”
“My original gut feeling is that something terrible has happened to her,” Debbie Hall said. I don’t think she’s still with us.”
Meanwhile, attempts to reach Musil-Buehler on her cell phone are chilling. Her outgoing message, in her voice, instructs callers that she will return their calls within 15 minutes.