MANATEE — The man who stole the car of missing Holmes Beach motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler will spend the next four years in prison for the theft, a judge ruled Friday.
Circuit Judge Gilbert Smith sentenced Robert Corona, 38, on a grand theft charge, giving him less than the maximum Corona faced for stealing Musil-Buehler’s car on the last day anyone saw her alive.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office officials believe Musil-Buehler has been killed, but her body has not been found. Corona is not believed to be involved in her disappearance.
On Nov. 6, Corona stole Musil-Buehler’s car from the Gator Lounge parking lot on 14th Street West, and said he took it on a joy ride. He found the keys in the ignition when he stole it. Musil-Buehler was later reported missing by her husband after deputies told him they recovered her car after stopping Corona driving it.
Corona’s attorney, John Pangallo, argued Friday that prosecutors unfairly sought the maximum sentence of five years for his client because he was driving Musil-Buehler’s car.
“I am asking the court to see through that,” Pangallo said, asking for the minimum Corona faced of a little more than three years prison.
Assistant State Attorney Tony Casoria said he sought the maximum sentence for Corona not based on the Musil-Buehler investigation, but on his prior record. Corona has 23 misdemeanor and eight felony convictions, mostly on theft-related charges, Casoria told the judge.
“I as a state attorney no longer seek anything less than the maximum for Mr. Corona,” he said.
Musil-Buehler’s disappearance is still under investigation and sheriff’s officials have named her boyfriend, William Cumber, as a “person of interest” in her case. But sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow said without a body presenting a case to prosecutors in her disappearance would be difficult.
Cumber, a convicted arsonist, is back behind bars after violating his probation on a 2005 arson conviction, for which he served three years. Prosecutors said he was driving with a suspended license fleeing from Manatee County during the investigation into Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, for which Cumber has denied any involvement.
In May, Smith also sentenced Cumber to 13 years in prison on the probation violation, which Cumber’s attorney, Tom Ostrander, called excessive based on the nature of the violation. The state had sought 15 years, which Ostrander argued was based on the Musil-Buehler case not the facts.
Casoria said Friday he sought the 15 years because Cumber received a deal on the arson conviction from the beginning, and then squandered his chance by breaking the law.
“I have never reviewed the Sabine case, never worked on it, and I really don’t know much about it,” said Casoria.
“Both these cases were pretty cut and dry based on their prior records.”