ANNA MARIA — Investigators didn’t find a missing island woman’s body after combing the beach for six hours with ground penetrating radar equipment Tuesday.
“We’re not prepared to say we’re finished,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit Sgt. Pete Rampone. “We’re not giving up.”
No one has seen Sabine Musil-Buehler, 49, co-owner of Haley’s Motel in Holmes Beach, since Nov. 4, 2008. Her boyfriend, William Cumber III, was the last one to see her after an argument, according to authorities.
Rampone said the search was conducted with the assistance of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, which owns the radar equipment.
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The machine, which is about the size of a lawn mower, probed the sandy area, sending electronic signals from a radio transmitter mounted on the bottom of the machine, said Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Skip Wood.
The machine works by reflecting what’s beneath the layers of soil to produce a signal on the screen using radar, Wood said.
“We didn’t see anything indicative of a clandestine burial,” he said.
This was the first time the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has used the machine to search for a body. The machine, which was obtained through a homeland security grant in May 2008, has been used in training to locate caskets.
Wood said the beach environment was less than ideal for the search because of the water. Damp soil limits how deep the signal can go and can diminish the view of the object in the ground, he said.
Over the past year, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigators have searched various areas between Holmes Beach, where Musil-Buehler resided with Cumber, to the Gator Lounge, 1814, 14th St. W., where her car was found with her blood in it. Authorities later stopped the vehicle when after it stolen by Robert Corona. Corona, who is not a suspect in Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, is serving four years for the theft.
Rampone said the latest search was a different approach to what investigators had done before. Earlier, detectives had used cadaver dogs to search the same stretch of beach.
It’s possible there could be future searches. Rampone couldn’t given specifics, he said.
“We haven’t given up. We’re still chasing down other leads,” he said.
Cumber, who currently is serving a 13-year prison sentence for violating his probation for a previous arson conviction, has not spoken to investigators since he was arrested in Marion County for leaving the area.
Debby Hall, a close friend of Musil-Buehler who recently held a vigil near Tuesday’s search site, said friends suspect Musil-Buehler’s body is buried on the beach.
“I just feel she’s right in that area. I just get a strange feeling,” she said.
“I’m so happy the cops are still looking. I’m so thrilled this isn’t a closed case. ... I just hope they find justice for her.”