ANNA MARIA — Investigators this morning were again combing a stretch of beach on Anna Maria Island for clues into the disappearance and presumed death of missing motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler.
Seven hours of searching by plowing through sand Tuesday turned up nothing in her disappearance, leaving Manatee County Sheriff’s Officials frustrated, but not ready to quit. The plan is to continue searching for days, if necessary, according to sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow.
“It’s going to be a tedious search until we find something, or we are sure we have exhausted all efforts to search the area,” said Bristow.
The focus is a stretch of the beach off Gulf Drive about 100 yards south of the Sandbar restaurant, in front of a small stretch of several residential houses. The plowing began around 8:30 a.m. and went on throughout the day — cutting a swath four to five feet deep, and eight to 10 feet wide — with no results. The plan is to begin again this morning, Bristow said.
Sheriff’s detectives searched the same spot with cadaver dogs, and more recently with ground penetrating radar equipment on Dec. 1, to no avail.
Musil-Buehler, co-owner of Haley’s Motel on Holmes Beach, has not been seen since Nov. 4, 2008, when her boyfriend, William Cumber, told authorities they had argued and she left their apartment, just a few blocks from Tuesday’s dig site.
Detectives began questioning Cumber after Musil-Buehler’s husband, Thomas Buehler, reported her missing when deputies pulled over a man driving her stolen car on Nov. 6, near 14th Street West.
Sheriff’s detectives have said they believe she has been killed.
Cumber has been named a “person of interest” in her disappearance, and the proximity to their apartment is a big factor as to why several searches have taken place in the same spot, according to Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube.
Steube said other evidence that surfaced throughout the investigation caused detectives to believe the spot could reveal her body, but he declined to elaborate. “If you look at it logically, this is the closest place he — and when I say he I mean our person of interest — would have access to,” Steube said. “So we are focusing on it.”
Manatee detectives have also employed a two-person team of experts on excavations from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office to aid in sifting through the sand.
At about 1:30 p.m., the front-end loader turned up a pair of sandals, which caught investigators’ attention. Nothing else was found, leaving detectives to bag the sandals as evidence to be investigated, but they are not believed to be connected to Musil-Buehler, according to investigators.
Sheriff’s officials have repeatedly declined to comment on any possible evidence linking Cumber to Musil-Buehler’s disappearance. He is in prison for violating his probation on an arson charge after fleeing Manatee County during the investigation after she went missing.
The search Tuesday brought dozens of onlookers to the beach, including friends of Musil-Buehler who say they are happy sheriff’s detectives continue to look for her. “We just want closure,” said friend Marion Heil.
Heil grew up in the same German town as Musil-Buehler, and they had been friends for many years. Heil said she keeps in contact with Musil-Buehler’s family in Germany, who she says are also desperate to know what happened to her.
“Just like us, they want closure, too. They want to know what happened,” she said.