The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 1 - October 17, 2012


Boyfriend charged in Sabine case
Carol Whitmore

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."


FEMA responds to citizens’ complaints

HOLMES BEACH – The city has received a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding issues raised by citizen on homes that may violate FEMA regulations. “More than one citizen has recently expressed concern about the city’s permitting process and enforcement of its floodplain ordinance concerning substantial improvements,” wrote Steven Martin, program manager of the state floodplain management office in Tallahassee.

He said the FEMA regional office asked the state to follow up on the complaints and that the citizens provided a power point presentation of four properties located at 606 Crestwood, 531 Key Royale Drive, 302 67th St. and 207-209 55th St.

“We request that the city provide detailed determinations to indicate that the cost of improvements to these properties did not exceed 50 percent of the certified market value (appraised or replacement value) of the structure prior to the improvements,” Martin said, and he also asked for elevation certificates.

Superintendent of Public Works Joe Duennes said he is assembling information on the appraisals of the listed houses and the cost affidavits.

Martin also said that last year, staff from his office met with city officials during a Community Assistance Visit and found “no apparent potential violations for selected properties on the permit list the city provided.”

However, the CAV staff advised the city that there are problems with its flood damage prevention ordinance and asked that the city revise its ordinance or adopt the state’s new model ordinance by Aug. 23, 2012. Martin said that has not been done.

FDLE report filed in Morris death

BRADENTON BEACH – A long awaited report from a Florida Department of Law Enforcement task force about the way the police investigated the death of a young woman on New Years Day 2009 has been released to Police Chief Sam Speciale.

Contrary to a Sarasota news story last Thursday, the report did not call for Speciale to reopen the case for further investigation, although Speciale said he would reopen it administratively, so he could attend to the report’s recommendations. He said he would not tell what the recommendations were until he followed them and closed the case again.

The task force found the investigation was lacking in a few areas, but it did not question the police department’s ruling that the death of Sheena Morris was a suicide. Police found her body in a Bradenton Beach resort room the morning she allegedly hanged herself from the shower.

“They did not look into the investigation to make a determination,” Special said. “They were there to make recommendations.”

The woman’s mother, Kelly Osborn, has called for Speciale to reopen the case and have another agency look at it. She believes her daughter was murdered; that she was not the type of person to take her own life. She has been critical about the way the case was handled by the police and especially critical of Speciale and Detective Sgt. Lenard Diaz.

Osborn attended city commission meetings trying to convince the mayor to force Speciale into reopening the case and, at one time, thought the FBI would look into it. The FBI, however, sent a letter to Speciale saying they would not.

Although their dealings tended to be contentious, Speciale talked with Osborn Friday, when he got the report.

“I was glad that the chief was gracious enough to let me know before the media,” she said. “We had a cordial conversation about the FDLE recommendations.”

Osborn said Speciale did not tell her what the recommendations were.

He said an agent from the FDLE would assist. He said the department would turn the case over to the State Attorney’s office after they finish addressing the recommendations.


When asked for her reaction to the news, Osborn said she didn’t know how to respond because she doesn’t know what the recommendations are. Speciale said there were about 15 to 17 recommendations from the report.

The chief said he’s happy with the FDLE report.

“I feel confident that this is bringing us closure on the case,” he said. “Detective Diaz is looking forward to getting the recommendations done.”

As for Osborn, she is weighing the results of the report.

“Is this a victory? I don’t know,” she said. When asked if she felt they were closer to the truth, she said, “The FDLE needs to hear my investigation since I’ve been the only one investigating it for the past few years.”

Osborn has a website,, with news about the death of her daughter and her fight to find out how she really died.

Newsletter prompts angry responses

HOLMES BEACH – Some audience members clapped as three residents lashed out at Commissioner Jean Peelen over the content of her newsletter at last week’s commission meeting.

The first was contractor John Agnelli, Jr., owner of Agnelli Building Plaza, who said he shares the community’s concern about potential overdevelopment, but added, “Lately, I have become appalled at what I’ve heard at these meetings.

“The mayor, city employees and a particular contractor were singled out by Commissioner Jean Peelen and publicly accused without any evidence in support of accusations and any criminal charges.”

Agnelli said Peelen said in her newsletter that he was a business associate of developer Shawn Kaleta, had been “cited for construction deficiencies and/or been before the code board more than once,” and contributed $500 to each incumbent.

“I’ve never been cited for any construction deficiencies or summoned before the code board,” he stressed. “Even elementary fact checking could have prevented this dissemination of false information about me.

“Only one statement she made is true – I did proudly contribute $500 in support of each incumbent. I have the right to support the political candidate of my choice without fear of intimidation.”

He said Peelen’s allegations are gossip with a “hidden political agenda with a malicious purpose” and have damaged his reputation and caused him harm. He called for her resignation or removal from office.

“As soon as I discovered I had confused Mr. Agnelli with his son, I sent out an immediate correction and that I was so sorry that I made that mistake and it shouldn’t have happened,” Peelen explained.

“I attempted twice to call Mr. Agnelli immediately and left two messages at his office to apologize in person.”

A call for civility

Restaurant owner Sean Murphy was also cited in the newsletter for fundraising for incumbents. He said the Beach Bistro and Eat Here have done fundraising for the president of the United States, senators, congressmen and almost everyone in the room who has been a candidate.

“I believe it’s my right and responsibility,” he pointed out. “I am a yellow dog Democrat; I would vote for a yellow dog if it was a Democrat. Most of the people I raise money for are Republicans.

“They are people that I have as friends and people that aren’t doing something for notoriety. They are doing something because they believe it’s good for the community.”

He said someone has thrown eggs at his house and removed political signs from his yard.

“There’s something about how our politics is now being conducted that is disappointing to me,” he continued. “I’ve never seen this division and fallout. We have to live together when this is all over. I ask for civility.”

Resident Frank Leggio was cited in the newsletter as donating $200 to each incumbent and buying two houses from Kaleta.

“I came here for peace and tranquility only to start coming to these meetings and seeing all these acrimonious, terrible relationships destroying a place that most of my friends describe as paradise,” he said.

“You imply by your statement that there’s something wrong with me supporting three incumbents, who I didn’t know until a few months ago, that I thought seemed to do a good job.”

In a memo following the meeting, Peelen said, “I made a mistake, and the mistake was perfect opportunity for Mr. Kaleta’s friends, house buyers and business associates to jump on me and that happened.

“I’m a big girl and I knew that taking on the big money interests could cost a lot, both personally and professionally. I feel badly that I made the mistake confusing John Agnelli with his son, but I will continue to do my best to represent the interests of the people who elected me.”

Agnelli sues commissioner over newsletter

HOLMES BEACH – The same day he took Commissioner Jean Peelen to task regarding remarks in her newsletter, contractor John F. Agnelli, Jr. filed a civil suit against her for libel.

The suit states that on Sept. 30, Peelen sent out an e-mail newsletter regarding happenings in the city, the upcoming election and campaign contributions and that she made the following statements in paragraph 2 of the newsletter:

“[Mr.] Agnelli who is a business associate of Shawn Kaleta and who has been cited for construction deficiencies and /or been before the code board more than once, gave $500 to each incumbent.”

It said, “Ms. Peelen’s statements are nothing less than vicious and directed at harming John Agnelli’s good reputation in the Holmes Beach and surrounding area community.”

It alleged that Peelen “abused her elected position of influence” and “published such statements without reasonable care as to the truth or falsity of the allegations” in the e-mail.

“Because Ms. Peelen has alleged certain acts that unfairly implied the lack of qualities and skill the public reasonably expects from persons engaged in the construction business, the e-mail constitutes libel per se and Mr. Agnelli’s damage should be presumed,” it concluded.

Agnelli is seeking a jury trial and damages in excess of $15,000.

Peelen received notification Monday that the Florida League of Cities will represent her in the lawsuit.

Holmes Beach candidates bring varied backgrounds

HOLMES BEACH – Six people seek three positions in the Island’s largest city where rental home development is threatening the Island’s laid-back, authentic, low-rise Florida character.

Mayoral candidates

Incumbent Mayor Rich Bohnenberger, who retired from the Philadelphia Fire Department as a fire officer, faces a challenge from Carmel Monti, a retired commercial salesman, former CEO and owner of a garden products company that will soon have a showroom in Sarasota.

Bohnenberger was first elected to the Holmes Beach City Council (now known as the city commission) in 1993. He resigned in 1994 to run for mayor, where he served two terms.

He lost a re-election bid for mayor and was elected to the city commission in 1999. In 2006, he ran for mayor and has served in that capacity without opposition until this year.

As mayor, Bohnenberger became active in the Manasota and Florida leagues of cities. He availed himself to training programs of the leagues plus Leadership Manatee and Leadership Florida.

Bohnenberger says one topic he feels is important is making sure the city does not get over-extended in its retirement plan liability. He also says State Bill 883 needs to be repealed. It limits how cities can deal with rentals, and Bohnenberger says it crosses the line for home rule cities.

Carmel Monti says he is not a politician; so if you want one in charge, don’t vote for him. He says he believes city hall is a business and needs to be run as such. He has run three businesses in his career. He has worked for Pentax Cameras, Hilco/Hilsinger Co., maker of eye ware products, Opticast Lens and currently My Garden Products LLC.

His goals for the city include tightening the building laws, enforcing the laws on the books and holding officials accountable to do the same. His motto is, “As mayor and city commissioners, we need to do the right things while the city departments need to do things right.”

Commission candidates

Marvin Grossman says it’s not too late to keep the Island lifestyle he has come to love. He says he doesn’t want to lose it to out-of-scale rental homes. His background includes being a real estate broker in Sarasota, but his main focus has been education.

He feels his background will be beneficial as the city tries to find a balance between the old and the new. His goals include strong enforcement of city codes, stopping the proliferation of the big rental homes, encouraging remodeling older homes, supporting the dog park and keeping taxes down. He says he would meet and listen to residents as he works toward those goals.

Sandy Haas-Martens was first elected to the city commission in 1998. She has served as city commission chair and vice chair, president of the Manasota League of Cities, board member of the Florida League of Cities and a member and president of the AMI Kiwanis Club. Her other activities include belonging to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, the Great Outdoors Conservancy, Seaside Gardens Civic Association, the Anna Maria Island Fire District Board and Island Rescue. Her motto is “For honesty, dignity, fiscal responsibility and common sense.”

John Monetti was first elected to the city commission in 2006 and is now serving his third two-year term. He served as commission vice chair from 2006 to 2011. He also served as the commission’s liaison to the AMI Community Center and the city’s public works department. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a BA in management human resources and a minor in sociology, He is currently the manager of the Columbia restaurant in St. Armands Circle.

Judy Titsworth is a lifelong resident of Holmes Beach and third generation member of the Holmes family, for whom the city is named. Her motto is “fighting for balance and compliance” in the construction of homes in the city.

She has served in the construction industry for 30 years. Her husband, Steve, is a contractor and they have three children. She said her husband has lost jobs because he would not build structures that are not allowed but the customers would find somebody who would.

Titsworth has spent 30 years rescuing and rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife. Her hobbies include boating, fishing, diving and gardening,

Code procedure questioned

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioner Jean Peelen questioned code procedure regarding a complaint a citizen made in July about homes that may violate Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations.

“On July 12, a citizen wrote to the mayor, commission and building official alleging FEMA violations at 26 new construction houses,” she explained. “I believed something would be done. I found out last week nothing has been done.”

She said she talked with former Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) Nancy Hall about procedures for handling code violation allegations.

“She said the first order of business is to open a file for each complaint,” she said. “This did not happen. The second is to notify each homeowner of the allegations. This did not happen. The third step is to investigate whether the allegations are true. This did not happen.

“There are no case files. No procedures were followed in this case. This lack of procedures allows city managers to pick and choose which allegations they’d like to pursue. I also think it puts the city and our insurance rates at risk.”

She asked that the 26 complaints be investigated, and said the city pursued a code complaint made by two people against mayoral challenger Carmel Monti, but has not investigated the allegation of FEMA rule violations.

“Two phone calls clearly made for political reasons got instant action. Twenty-six allegations in a written letter got no action,” she concluded.

Other opinions

Diana McManaway, of the the Anna Maria Coalition, asked, “These violations have come from where? Do we have people wandering around the city looking in people’s garages and windows?

“The other thing is sending people out to use our taxpayer dollars to look for violations that they allege are there. The purpose is to attack certain people, and this type of behavior from a sitting commissioner can stop. We need to work together.”

Property owner Frank Yonkee said if the city is going to investigate code complaints, they have to be legitimate, valid complaints identified by trained professionals, not those found by residents driving around the city.

“I want to live in a community where everybody is not looking in everybody’s back door for a code violation,” he stressed.

Tom O’Brien, who has worked for the county in the FEMA inspection, code enforcement and building departments, said in 1988, FEMA engineers found 98 properties in the county with violations and said unless the county took code enforcement action against them, it would be suspended from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

“They don’t slap your wrist,” he said. “They beat you upside the head with a big club. There is no choice.

“One of the most important things I learned is that a non-compliant structure can pose a serious risk to adjacent fully complaint structures. It’s really incumbent to have that consistency.”

He said for participation in the NFIP, local communities must adopt local ordinances that enforce FEMA guidelines.

Code complaint procedure

Peelen asked Mayor Rich Bohnenberger what procedure the city follows when it receives a complaint.

“Dave (CEO Dave Forbes) usually does a drive by, but it depends on the amount of evidence submitted with the complaint,” he replied. “Without any evidence, you can’t proceed.”

“Do we have a case file? Do we notify the owner that we have a complaint?” Peelen asked.

“If it appears there’s a justified complaint, we send them a courtesy letter telling them that there’s been a complaint filed and they have a number of days to come into compliance,” Bohnenberger replied.

“My question goes to the process,” Peelen persisted. “We have allegations of FEMA violations at 26 houses. The majority had to do with ground floor rec rooms and family rooms.

“They were being advertised on the Internet and they were on the first floor. Not a single complaint was opened as far as I know; not a single homeowner was talked to.”

She questioned whether the city has procedures in place for following up complaints.

“I think you’re wrong, but you’re entitled to your opinion,” Bohnenberger replied.

Peelen said she wants to see the procedures.

Mainsail ready to roll despite city’s misgivings

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners directed the city attorney to start the process of holding a public hearing on whether to revoke the site plan for Mainsail’s marina development.

However, Mainsail Development Company President Joe Collier said, “We’ll bypass all of that by getting it started. We’ll apply for a building permit in the next 45 to 60 days and forge ahead ASAP.

“We’re putting the last touches on the construction drawings. The design, development and schematics are complete. We’ll be close to breaking ground around the holidays or the first of the year.”

The issue first came to the commission on Sept. 25, when Mayor Rich Bohnenberger asked the board to revoke the site plan for the project. At last week’s meeting, City Attorney Patricia Petruff said the code says that a building permit must be issued with in 90 days after site plan approval, and there is one extension of 90 days.

“Arguably a building permit should have been applied for within 180 days from the initial site plan approval,” Petruff explained. “We could make an argument that the site plan expired. I would not want to go to court on that theory.

“If we wish to do something with this particular site plan, set a public hearing so it has due process and allow them to come in and tell you why their site plan should not be revoked.”

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said Mainsail sent representatives to the building department and “implied they’d be back in a couple weeks to apply for a building permit and also clean up the site and make it secure.”

“We sent a team to mow, cut and trim,” Collier said. “It’s less of an eyesore. We’ll continue to spruce up the site in the next few weeks. We want to do the right thing.

“We want to showcase it. We’re not some greedy developer that wants to put in high rises. They will be happy when this gets started.”

Petruff said at the public hearing commissioners should ask for a time frame for finishing this project and “put that into stipulations that they need to make good faith progress in finishing the project and if they don’t by some time certain, then the site plan will be revoked.”

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