Cadaver dog used in search for missing Anna Maria woman

rdymond@bradenton.comAugust 3, 2011 

ANNA MARIA -- The same cadaver-sniffing dog that searched for the remains of Caylee Anthony during one of the most highly publicized crime cases in American history is on Anna Maria Island for a second straight day today.

Bones, a 9-year-old German shepherd handled by Sgt. Kris Brewer of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, is on loan to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office this week for its search for the remains of missing businesswoman Sabine Musil-Buehler.

The dog and his trainer spent 150 hours on loan to Orange County in the case of Caylee’s mother, Casey Anthony, who was recently found not guilty in the little girl’s death

Caylee’s remains were eventually found close to the Anthony home in Orange County.

“We searched the backyard of George and Cindy Anthony in Orange County and later I took the witness stand in the case,” said Brewer, who has worked with Bones for almost three years.

Musil-Buehler was last seen alive Nov. 4, 2008 and, according to the sheriff’s office, is presumed dead. No arrests have been made in the case.

The Brewer/Bones team didn’t find Musil-Buehler on Tuesday, but hopes were running high because of Bones’ reputation.

“He’s very experienced,” said Suzi Fox, of Anna Maria Island Turtle & Shore Bird Monitoring, which welcomed Bones to a beach where no dogs are usually allowed, especially at turtle nesting season.

Besides Bones, the sheriff’s office had front-loaders in action, all in an effort to cover all the bases perhaps one final time, said Dave Bristow, a sheriff’s office spokesman.

“We came out here with cadaver dogs in the beginning, then we dug and now we are closing this out with another dog, sort of a fresh nose on the case,” Bristow said. “We just want to do everything we can. No matter if we find her here or not, we are going forward with this case. We expect to make an arrest.”

Watching Bones work was fascinating to Fox and others who strolled by to check out the famous dog.

Bones can smell human remains even from bones that have been buried for seven years or more, Brewer said.

“When Bones was trained, he was imprinted with the smell of human bones and human fluids,” including blood, Brewer said. “When he would find them, he would get a reward. He would be allowed to play with his tennis ball, which he loves.”

Bones can’t smell long decomposed remains and bones from the surface, however.

Homicide detectives have given Brewer about a half-dozen “points of interest” where they think Musil-Buehler might be buried.

Tuesday, these points were in the palmetto and sea grape scrubs just south of Willow Avenue, around where some of Musil-Buehler’s possessions were found July 9.

Brewer drives a 4-foot probe into the ground to loosen the dirt at these points so Bones can sniff.

Interestingly, Bones will not react to animal bones; he hasn’t been imprinted with them. He also can’t distinguish between Musil-Buehler’s remains and other humans.

He will give the signal, which is sitting right over the probe area, when he smells human bones or tissues, Brewer said.

“In his career, he has found six or seven skeletal remains or bodies,” Brewer said. “He is very talented and exceptional. That’s why we do a lot of traveling.”

The longer the remains have been buried or decomposed, the more Bones needs to be directed to the exact spot, which makes it challenging, but not impossible.

“If he is searching fresh remains, he doesn’t need to be as close to the exact spot,” Brewer said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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