Crime

State obtains fingerprints from boyfriend of missing motel owner to confirm violation

BRADENTON — An attorney for William Cumber, boyfriend of missing Holmes Beach motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler, named a “person if interest” in her disappearance, is planning to ask for leniency in his probation violation case.

Cumber has no other choice, he is guilty of driving on a suspended license while on probation, his attorney, Tom Ostrander, said Wednesday.

But such a minor offense does not warrant the 15 years the state is offering Cumber for a guilty plea or the 30 years the state pledges to seek if he does not accept, Ostrander said.

Instead, Ostrander says the state is punishing his client based on suspicion he had something to do with Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, which is something with which he has not been charged.

“He has already spent a lot of time in jail for a relatively minor offense,” Ostrander said. “The elephant in the room is Sabine, but what he is looking at is simply a driving violation.”

On Wednesday, a judge allowed prosecutors to obtain Cumber’s fingerprints as evidence in the state’s effort to put him in prison on the probation violation.

Cumber faces up to 30 years in prison after Marion County authorities arrested him driving on a suspended license in December. He had been on probation for a 2005 arson conviction and was under court order not to violate the law or leave Manatee County.

Assistant State Attorney Tony Casoria told a judge he plans to compare fingerprints taken by Marion County authorities to Cumber’s prints taken Wednesday in court, in order to the prove the violation.

Cumber has been named a “person of interest” by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives in the Nov. 6 disappearance of Musil-Buehler, co-owner of Haley’s Motel on Holmes Beach with her estranged husband Thomas Buehler. Cumber has denied any knowledge or involvement in her disappearance.

Musil-Buehler was reported missing after deputies stopped a man driving her stolen car near 14th Street West. Forensics tests found her blood in the car. Detectives quickly identified Cumber as a suspect because of a past arson conviction, for which he spent three years in prison for burning down an ex-girlfriend’s house.

Cumber and Musil-Buehler, who had separated from her husband, began dating after he got out of prison in 2008. Cumber, the last person to have reported seeing his girlfriend, told detectives he had fought with Musil-Buehler.

Casoria has offered Cumber 15 years in exchange for admission that he violated his probation, which Cumber has refused, according to Ostrander.

If Cumber does not accept the offer before his probation violation hearing Tuesday, Casoria said he will seek the maximum of 30 years in prison.

Ostrander called Casoria’s offer “unacceptable,” saying his client should be prosecuted based on the suspended license offense, not Musil-Buehler’s disappearance. Ostrander said the prison time the state is seeking is an attempt by the state to punish Cumber for Musil-Buehler’s disappearance, even though he has not been charged in the case.

“He maintains he has nothing to do with it,” said Ostrander. “It is transparent that they are trying to scare the hell out of him to get him to cooperate,” said Ostrander. “But there is a real incongruity between the reality of the offense and the perception that he may be involved in the Sabine disappearance.”

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