BRADENTON — The man accused of stealing the car belonging to missing Holmes Beach motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler wants a trial on the grand theft auto charge against him, according to his public defender.
Robert Corona, 38, has been in jail since Nov. 6 when Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies pulled him over while driving Musil-Buehler’s car near 14th Street West, according to sheriff’s reports.
Musil-Buehler, 49, co-owner of Haley’s Motel, has not been seen since Nov. 4.
Deputies arrested Corona on charges of resisting arrest without violence and driving with a suspended license after he ran from the car, sheriff’s reports said.
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Detectives later charged him with stealing Musil-Buehler’s car after her husband, Thomas Buehler, reported her missing. The couple was separated when Musil-Buehler went missing but continued to own Haley’s together.
Corona initially told detectives he had been “partying” with Musil-Buehler on the night deputies found her car but later changed his story, according to sheriff’s officials.
Sheriff’s reports say Corona told detectives he had never met Musil-Buehler and had found her car in the parking lot of the Gator Lounge on 14th Street West, unlocked with the keys in the ignition.
Detectives found Musil-Buehler’s blood in the car and upholstery ripped off of seats in the vehicle, but they do not believe Corona is involved in her disappearance, according to sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow.
At a court hearing Wednesday, Corona’s attorney told prosecutors his client wants a trial on the auto theft charge. Corona did not appear in court, but an initial trial date has been set for March, according to Corona’s public defender, Patrick Kane.
Kane said his client is also asking for a judge to reduce Corona’s $50,000 bond on the charge. Kane said he plans to argue Corona’s bond has been unfairly set too high because of the investigation into Musil-Buehler’s disappearance.
“They are just trying to hold him as long as they can,” he said.
Meanwhile, Musil-Buehler’s boyfriend William Cumber, the last person to have reported seeing Musil-Buehler alive, continues to draw suspicion from investigators as a “person of interest” in her disappearance, as well as a fire that broke out at Haley’s two weeks after she disappeared.
Fire officials have described the blaze, which destroyed a duplex on the property, as “suspicious,” but they have not officially ruled it as an arson.
Cumber, 39, has denied any knowledge of Musil-Buehler’s disappearance or the fire, and claims he is being framed.
In the weeks after Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, sheriff’s detectives questioned Cumber several times and collected evidence from the Holmes Beach apartment he shared with Musil-Buehler.
The couple had lived there since Cumber’s release from prison in September on a 2005 arson conviction for burning down an ex-girlfriend’s house.
Upon his release, Cumber was to remain on probation until 2011, but less than two months after Musil-Buehler disappeared, he found himself back behind bars on probation violation charges.
Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Cumber on Dec. 22 on a charge of driving with a suspended license in the Ocala area.
Cumber’s probation officer revoked his probation for getting arrested and failing to provide notification he was leaving Manatee County, according to Florida Department of Corrections reports.
He has since been extradited to the Manatee County jail where he is being held without bond.
But Cumber plans to fight the charges, according to court documents filed this week.
On Tuesday, Cumber denied that he violated his probation in a motion filed by his public defender and asked for a hearing in front of a judge. A hearing date has not yet been set.
Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube said Wednesday Cumber has not yet been questioned again.