HOLMES BEACH — A year after Holmes Beach motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler went missing, authorities want to double back and talk to her estranged husband about a life insurance policy in her name on which he is looking to collect.
Thomas Buehler filed court papers in September, seeking to have a judge declare Musil-Buehler dead in order to collect a $300,000 life insurance policy taken out in her name in 2002.
Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube on Tuesday said his detectives did not know of the policy until they read about it in a story on the case published Sunday in the Bradenton Herald. Thomas Buehler had only told detectives about a separate $100,000 life insurance policy, Steube said.
“We will want to talk to him about the discrepancy,” Steube said. “He told us about the $100,000 policy, but we did not know about any other insurance policy he might have.”
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Buehler has not responded to requests for interviews, and his attorney, William Meeks Jr. of Bradenton, who filed the court papers did not return a phone call.
Great American Life Insurance Co., the company that issued the $300,000 policy, has countered with a court motion to have Buehler’s request denied, saying it should not have to pay it under Florida law until Musil-Buehler has been missing five years. A judge will hear from attorneys on the matter Dec. 22.
Musil-Buehler has not been seen since Nov. 4, 2008, when her boyfriend, William Cumber III, told detectives he had argued with her and she had left their Holmes Beach apartment. Sheriff’s officials have said detectives believe someone killed her.
Buehler, 60, reported Musil-Buehler missing two days later, after deputies pulled over a man driving her stolen car. The couple were still married and owned Haley’s Motel together, but had been separated at the time Musil-Buehler disappeared.
Detectives say Cumber is the prime suspect in Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, but sheriff’s officials want to question Buehler again about details concerning the life insurance policy, Steube said.
Steube said his detectives will seek a routine interview with Buehler, but Cumber remains the focus of their investigation. “When you look at motive, this is a lot of money,” said Steube.
“But the discrepancy can also be explained away during an interview. I mean, I don’t know off the top of my head what kind of life insurance I have on my wife or myself.”
Meanwhile, frustration remains high among investigators that Musil-Buehler’s body has not been found, though sheriff’s officials maintain she is a victim of foul play.
The driver found in her stolen car, Robert Corona, is serving four years in prison for the theft.
Forensic tests showed Musil-Buehler’s blood in the car, but detectives believe Corona stumbled on the car after finding its keys in the ignition outside a bar on 14th Street West in Bradenton.
A fire at Haley’s two weeks after Musil-Buehler disappeared also remains unsolved, but has been ruled an arson. Cumber, a convicted arsonist, claimed to have been “framed” in Musil-Buehler’s disappearance and the fire. He is serving a 13-year sentence after fleeing from Manatee County while on probation on the arson conviction.
Friends of Musil- Buehler will be holding a candlelight vigil this evening on the beach in front of the Sandbar Restaurant, at 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, in Musil-Buehler’s honor.
The ceremony, marking the one-year anniversary of her disappearance, will be at sunset and is open to the public.