Husband seeks declaration of death

Motel owner missing since November

dmarsteller@bradenton.comSeptember 8, 2009 

MANATEE — Nearly a year after a Holmes Beach motel owner disappeared, her estranged husband is seeking to have her declared legally dead.

There is evidence that Sabine Musil-Buehler “was abducted and killed” on Nov. 6, when she was last seen alive by anyone who knew her, Thomas E. Buehler said in a petition filed in Manatee County Circuit Court last week.

The three-page petition asks a judge to declare Musil-Buehler legally dead, thus allowing Buehler to collect on a life-insurance policy on her and become sole owner of Haley’s Motel. Musil-Buehler did not have a will, thus making her husband her sole heir, the petition said.

Typically under Florida law, a person must be missing at least five years before he or she can be declared legally dead. But an heir can seek a presumptive death certificate if there is evidence that the person was “exposed to a specific peril of death,” as Buehler’s petition contends.

Musil-Buehler’s body has not been found, and no charges have been filed in her disappearance.

She went missing Nov. 6 after an argument with her boyfriend, William Cumber. Later that day, authorities stopped her car, arrested the man driving it and found Musil-Buehler’s blood in it.

The driver, Robert Corona, was sentenced last month to four years in prison after pleading no contest to grand theft, resisting arrest and driving without a valid license. He has maintained that he is not involved in Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, saying he took the car after finding it with the keys in the ignition.

Cumber, the last person known to have seen Musil-Buehler alive, was sentenced in May to 13 years in prison for violating his probation on an unrelated arson conviction. He also has denied involvement in her disappearance.

Having Musil-Buehler declared legally dead could help the investigation into her disappearance, which the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is treating as a homicide, spokesman Dave Bristow said.

A local crime fighting group, the Manatee County Gold Star Club, recently presented Sheriff Brad Steube with a $25,000 check to give law enforcement some help in getting information on Manatee County’s recent wave of homicides and home invasions. Bristow urged anyone with information in the case to call the sheriff’s office at 747-3011 or Manatee County Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS (8477).

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.

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