Crime

Investigators looking for missing Anna Maria Island businesswoman find skeletal remains

Manatee sheriff's office digs for body of Holmes Beach Sabine Musil-Buehler

William Cumber, the boyfriend charged with killing Sabine Musil-Buehler, showed Manatee detectives where he buried her as part of a plea deal Thursday.
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William Cumber, the boyfriend charged with killing Sabine Musil-Buehler, showed Manatee detectives where he buried her as part of a plea deal Thursday.

MANATEE -- UPDATE, Oct. 16, 2015: Investigators looking for Anna Maria Island businesswoman Sabine Musil-Buehler have found skeletal remains at a location on the beach where her boyfriend told investigators he buried her almost seven years ago.

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said some remains were found Thursday, and more were found early Friday morning.

The recovery of remains continues on the beach off 81st Street in Holmes Beach, according to the sheriff's office.

"The Medical Examiner's Office will now determine positive identification which will take several days," the sheriff's office said in a news release.

Election night, Nov. 4, 2008, was the last time 49-year-old Musil-Buehler was seen or heard from.

She and her boyfriend William Cumber, 45, were each in different rooms at Haley's Motel in Holmes Beach, which she owned with her estranged husband. She and Cumber got into an argument that began over his smoking cigarettes.

She was never again seen alive.

On Thursday morning, almost seven years later, Cumber agreed to tell authorities exactly what happened to Musil-Buehler and where her remains are located, after entering into a plea agreement with prosecutors.

After confessing to what Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube called a "crime of passion," Cumber agreed

to show them where he buried her.

At 10:18 a.m., several unmarked vehicles carrying detectives and members of a SWAT team escorted Cumber out of the Manatee County Judicial Center's sally port. The line of vehicles made their way onto Manatee Avenue West and headed west toward Anna Maria Island, where detectives have always suspected they would find her body.

At 10:42 a.m., at Cumber's direction, the four unmarked vehicles turned onto 81st Street in Holmes Beach, where Haley's Motel is located.

They drove Cumber to the end of the road, just down the street from the motel, and stopped just before the public beach access path. Members of the SWAT team and detectives surrounded Cumber and alerted neighbors to the situation.

Handcuffed, shackled and dressed in jail garb, Cumber hobbled out of the car and walked down the path.

"He actually said a prayer," Steube said, who arrived at the beach seconds after Cumber.

Cumber was then quickly led away once the burial spot, located beneath a small covered pavilion, was identified and marked.

Under the plea deal, Cumber, who has been in state prison since May 2009 for violating his probation on an earlier arson conviction, will be sentenced to 20 years in prison for the slaying. His sentences will run concurrently.

While in prison, Cumber was charged in October 2012 with second-degree murder in Musil-Buehler's presumed death, although investigators had not located her body. Traces of her blood found in her car, which was found parked outside a Bradenton bar, and her apartment were among the evidence leading to Cumber being charged with killing her.

Cumber was scheduled to stand trial next month. If convicted at trial, he could have faced life in prison.

On Thursday morning, Cumber entered into a plea agreement before Circuit Judge Diana Moreland, pleading no contest to a charge of second-degree murder. Cumber had to tell authorities what happened to Musil-Buehler and assist in helping to find her body. If her body is not recovered, he will instead face a little more than 22 years in prison.

Cumber appeared calm as he spoke with Moreland.

He named the medications he is currently taking for back pain and depression, but said he understood the deal he was making and felt competent to make the decision to accept it.

Musil-Buehler's stepson was among those on the beach Thursday watching as sheriff's investigators searched for Musil-Buehler's body.

"The Buehler family is just happy," stepson Eric Buehler said outside Haley's Motel, which his family still owns. "It's grief and relief."

Thomas Buehler, his father and the victim's estranged husband at the time of her murder, is laying low, he said.

The stepson and Debbie Akins, a long-time employee of the hotel, were brought out near where Cumber told investigators he buried Musil-Buehler underneath the metal pavilion.

"We have stood where she was," he said in shock. "I've been there with my kids even."

His father is doing OK, after hearing that Cumber finally confessed and told detectives where his wife's body is, Eric Buehler said.

"She can finally be given a proper memorial," he said, adding they are taking it one day at a time for now.

The younger Buehler was also glad any doubts or questions surrounding any possible connection between his dad and his stepmother's disappearance and murder can finally be quashed.

"Some people really thought he had done it," Akins said.

The sheriff's office has searched Anna Maria Island numerous times in the past seven years for Musil-Buehler's remains.

In May 2014, investigators searched the Gulf side of Anna Maria Island for Musil-Buehler's body. After drawing new conclusions from evidence, they searched an undeveloped plot on the bay side off of South Bay Boulevard.

On Aug. 18, 2014, a backhoe crew found undergarments at the south end of Bay Boulevard in the city of Anna Maria. They were sent to a DNA lab for testing, but no DNA was found on the undergarments, according to former lead detective John Kenney of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Steube was present each time they searched for Musil-Buehler. He seemed confident Thursday morning they were finally going to find her body.

"When I pulled up at 81st Street, I said, 'This is new' to the detectives," Steube said.

The sheriff said finding the victim's body was always important for the family, although he said there was sufficient evidence to convict Cumber.

"I feel good for them that they are going to finally have closure after all these years," Steube said.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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