tom vaught | sun
Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube tells
reporters about the decision to file a
murder charge against William Cumber III
in the disappearance nearly four years ago
of Sabine Musil Buehler.
William Cumber III, the former boyfriend of Sabine Musil-Buehler, has been transported to Manatee County Jail and charged with murder in her disappearance.
Musil-Buehler was last seen on Nov. 4, 2008, after she allegedly got into an argument with Cumber, who she befriended while he was on work release from prison on an arson conviction. Cumber workedf at Haley’s Motel, which Musil-Buehler owned with her estranged husband, Tom Buehler. However a probable cause affidavit filed March 8, 2012, indicated the detective who spoke with Cumber shortly after her disappearance noticed a strong odor of bleach in the apartment. The detective said they found blood in the apartment after crime scene technicians processed it with chemicals. He wrote there were strong indications that somebody had tried to clean it. The affidavit also indicated some discrepancy with what Cumber told them.
“Cumber made several incriminating statements that only the person responsible in Sabine’s death would have knowledge of,” the affidavit said.
Detective Ricardo Alvarado, who handled the case along with Detective John Kenney, wrote and signed the affidavit.
Kenney, a former sergeant who headed the Sheriff’s Office in Anna Maria when Musil-Buehler disappeared, retired but came back as a detective to help with a backlog of murders He said this arrest brings a sense of closure.
“We worked very hard for three years,” he said Tuesday. “When we couldn’t work on it because of other cases, we always came back to it.
“We do it for the victims and their families,” he added. “Even when we were driving Cumber back from Punta Gorda, we were trying to get him to tell us where the body was buried.”
At the time of Musil-Buehler's disappearance she was living with Cumber in an apartment she had rented in Anna Maria. When police pulled over a man driving her white Pontiac Sunbird convertible in Bradenton, Tom Buehler realized something was wrong and called police to report her missing. The man driving Musil-Buehler's car, Robert Corona, first told detectives he had partied with her the night before, but he later recanted and said he stole the car when he found the car parked in Bradenton with the keys still in the ignition. Corona is now serving a four-year prison sentence for the theft.
Cumber was convicted of parole violation when he was caught outside Manatee County and he is serving a 13-year sentence.
After Musil-Buehler disappeared, authorities kept an eye on Cumber, who moved off the Island when the rent on the apartment came due. On Nov. 16, 2008, a fire broke out at Haley's and destroyed the elevated structure that housed a gathering place for parties. The fire was ruled as arson, and police suspected Cumber because he had previously been convicted of setting fire to a girlfriend's house. However, they could never prove he was involved with the Haley's fire.
Tom Buehler said that Monday's announcement by the Sheriff's Office was a relief to him and that he is grateful for the long, hard investigative work that led to the arrest.
“I want to thank the Sheriff’s Office, and especially Detective John Kenney and his team of investigators for their endless hours of investigation,” Buehler said. “They have kept me up to date for the last four years and it may not have seemed like anything was going on, but it was, and now we can hope that justice will prevail.”
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox, who knew Musil-Buehler as a volunteer for the organization, said her volunteers and she want some closure and this is the first step in getting that.
“Her love for animals, habitat and protection of animals is something we all feel at Turtle Watch,” she said, “Losing Sabine is something we feel deeply.”
Musil-Buehler loved all animals, especially her tropical birds at Haley’s.
“I know Tom, his grandchildren and her stepchildren would like to know what happened,” Fox said. “It’s hard to lose somebody when we have so many questions.”
There were times in the investigation when the behind-the-scenes work became public once again. In July 2011, Kenney brought in front end loaders to search the beach along Gulf Boulevard in Anna Maria, where her car was parked the night before her disappearance. In August 2011, another search was launched after Musil-Buehler's purse and cell phone were found on the beach behind the Moss house on Willow Avenue. A cadaver dog and three bulldozers were used but nothing else was found.
Steube said Monday he is convinced Musil-Buehler's body is buried somewhere in Manatee County.
"She's here. I really feel like she's here," he said. "We just have to keep looking."