MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Anna Maria Island resident Sabine Musil-Buehler vanished on Nov. 4, 2008. Her boyfriend was later charged with her murder, even though a body was never found. Now the search is back on in the Manatee County cold case, and police hope they may be on the verge of a breakthrough.
Manatee County Sheriffs deputies were out with canine units Wednesday, combing an undeveloped lot off Bay Boulevard on North Anna Maria Island. Officials say the dogs smelled something, and the plan was to continue searching the area today. Unfortunately, bad weather has caused a delay.
"This is a small island community, not a lot of crime happens here, and that’s a pretty big thing for one of our own to go missing,” says Caryn Hodge, a friend of Musil-Buehler. “[It’s] just so wired, it was unexpected and out of the norm.”
At the time of her murder, Musil-Buehler and her husband co-owned Haley's Motel. The couple had recently separated, with Musil-Buehler moving into an apartment with her then-boyfriend, William Cumber. Not long after that she went missing.
Deputies dug up the beach, recovered her stolen car, and sifted through the ashes when the motel was set on fire shortly after her disappearance. Though they found clues, they never found Musil-Buehler’s body.
"I think we know that Sabine in gone,” Hodge says, “But we don’t know what happened, and that’s the part that perplexes everybody and we want to know what happened."
According to those close to the case, law enforcement recently recalculated Musil-Buehler's possible last whereabouts using cell phone data. In recent days they've used search dogs to comb through areas of interest. Though they have made progress, the police remain cautious.
"The dogs have hit on a couple of areas, but that’s not to say there are human remains here,” says Dave Bristow, Public Information Officer for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. “When we were searching beach-side, the dogs also hit on something, but they were animal remains."
In the meantime, Musil-Buehler’s friends thank law enforcement for not giving up the search. They say they hope Musil-Buehler will be remembered as an avid animal lover and a friend to all in need.
"One thing I hope that people remember about her is that she was a good community girl,” says friend Suzi Fox. “She loved this island and she loved the people that lived here and vacationed here, and she was such a tight part of the community that runs everyday on this island and we miss her. … It would be nice if we finally need to say goodbye that we get our chance to say it."
Despite authorities never having recovered Musil-Buehler’s body, they still charged Cumber with her murder back 2012. He has pled not guilty and is currently awaiting trial, which is scheduled to begin in October of this year.