Missing woman’s ex pleads guilty

rnapper@bradenton.comApril 15, 2009 

BRADENTON — William Cumber, the former boyfriend of missing motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler and named a “person of interest” in her disappearance, pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating his probation on an arson conviction.

Cumber, 39, is the last person to have reported seeing Musil-Buehler alive. Musil-Buehler, 49, co-owner with her estranged husband of Haley’s Motel on Holmes Beach, has not been seen since Nov. 4.

In court Tuesday, Cumber pleaded guilty to driving with a suspended license while on probation after his arrest in December by Marion County authorities outside Ocala. He faces up to 30 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced May 14. Assistant State Attorney Tony Casoria said he will ask for the maximum sentence.

Cumber has denied any involvement in or knowledge of Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, and his attorney, Tom Ostrander, said he believes prosecutors are asking for the maximum based on the Musil-Buehler case, not on the facts of his probation violation.

On Nov. 6, Musil-Buehler’s estranged husband, Thomas Buehler, reported her missing after Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies pulled over a man driving her stolen car.

The driver, Robert Corona, admitted to stealing her car but claimed no knowledge of her disappearance, according to sheriff’s officials. Detectives found Musil-Buehler’s blood in her car.

Detectives focused on Cumber, naming him a “person of interest,” and collected evidence from the Holmes Beach apartment he shared with Musil-Buehler. His past arson conviction, in which he pleaded guilty to burning an ex-girlfriend’s house down, led to suspicion, according to sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow.

More suspicion came Cumber’s way when a duplex at Haley’s went up in flames two weeks after Musil-Buehler went missing. Holmes Beach police called the fire “suspicious” and named Cumber a “person of interest.”

On Tuesday, West Manatee Fire Rescue Capt. Tom Sousa said the Haley’s fire has officially been ruled an arson, but it unknown who started the fire.

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