MANATEE -- The dig for the possible remains of a missing Anna Maria Island businesswoman took both high- and low-tech turns Thursday as shovels and radar were used.
Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies received permission to dig up a section of protected sea oat grass in the continuing search for Sabine Musil-Buehler, who went missing in November 2008. They also invited neighboring Sarasota County to bring in an expensive ground-penetrating radar device.
Despite the efforts, no remains were found Thursday, but more attempts are expected in the next few days, said Dave Bristow, a sheriff’s office spokesman.
During the first two days of digging Tuesday and Wednesday, tractors concentrated on turning sand only and found nothing.
But the third day of excavation began on a patch of waving sea oats that apparently were not there in 2008 when Musil-Buehler disappeared.
“We met with the Department of Environmental Protection today and talked about the sea oats covering the beach right off the boardwalk,” Bristow said. The state agency granted permission with the caveat that the sheriff’s office would return the sea oats in as close as possible to the condition they were found, Bristow added.
Sea oats are considered important in retarding beach erosion because their long roots can grip loose soil. In Florida, anyone who disturbs sea oats can be fined.
The radar was another idea the sheriff’s office had, knowing that Sarasota County got a federal homeland security grant three years ago and purchased a machine costing “tens of thousands of dollars” that penetrates the ground using high frequency radio waves, said Michael Gorn, supervisor of the forensic unit for Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
“We are the only ones in the area with one and we share it,” Gorn said.
The device has four wheels and is pushed over the sand. After the waves penetrate the ground, they send their signal to a screen attached to a rod near the pushing handle.
“It looks like a Segway,” Bristow said, referring to a brand of scooter.
“When it hits something that looks different than everything else, those waves get reflected back and you read it on a monitor and you can see what the anomaly might be,” Gorn added. “It does look like a Segway, with four wheels.”
The idea for digging under the sea oats came from conversations with local residents who informed the sheriff’s office that the grasses emerged relatively recently.
“The citizens of Anna Maria Island have been helpful -- no, make that very helpful,” Bristow said. “They have provided their knowledge and photographs.”
Sheriff’s Office Det. John Kenney, Lt. Tony Williams and Major Connie Shingledecker, who is in charge of all criminal investigations for the sheriff’s office, were walking the beach area Thursday, trying to come up with ideas for the best places to dig.
No arrests have been made in the possible homicide of Musil-Buehler. But officials have long called Musil-Buehler’s boyfriend, William Cumber, a person of interest.
He is the last person reported to have seen her alive Nov. 4, 2008.
Cumber is serving a 13-year prison sentence for violating his probation after she disappeared.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.