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Date of Issue: March 18, 2009

Attorney change expected in grand theft case

/1-7-09/haleys-musil-buehler-mug.jpg
Sabine Musil-Buehler, 49
/3-4-09/cumber-03-04-herald.jpg
William Cumber III appears in a courtroom in Bradenton Feb. 24 on a violation of probation charge. Islander Photo: Tiffany Tompkins-Condie/Bradenton Herald

The man accused of stealing the car of missing Haley’s Motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler likely will get another defense attorney.

The court-appointed regional counsel representing Robert Corona, 38, asked to withdraw from the grand-theft auto case earlier this month because his office has a conflict of interest — he’s representing another defendant in a related case.

If granted by Circuit Court Judge Gilbert A. Smith Jr., who held a status hearing on the case March 11, the new attorney would be Corona’s third since his arrest last November. A public defender first withdrew from the case also citing a conflict of interest because he had represented a potential witness.

Corona is accused of stealing Musil-Buehler’s car from a 14th Street bar sometime between late Nov. 4 and Nov. 6.

He was arrested early Nov. 6 after allegedly fleeing from a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy attempting, at first, to make a routine traffic stop.

Corona initially told authorities he was given the key to the car, but later said he found the vehicle in a parking lot outside a the bar with the key in the ignition.

The car contained small amounts of Musil-Buehler’s blood in the front seat and some of her possessions in the trunk, according to the MCSO. Her cell phone and purse remain missing.

Initially authorities described Corona as a person of interest in the disappearance of Musil-Buehler, but later the MCSO indicated that investigators believe Corona never met her.

Corona has been in jail since Nov. 6, but has yet to appear in a Manatee County courtroom.

Meanwhile, on March 17, after The Islander’s deadline, a hearing was to take place to determine whether Musil-Buehler’s boyfriend, William Cumber III, 39, violated the conditions of his probation on a felony arson conviction.

Cumber was released from prison last fall and was placed on probation. The state prosecution alleges that Cumber violated his probation in late December when he left Manatee County without the permission of his probation officer and then was arrested and served 10 days in the Marion County jail for driving on a suspended license.

Cumber, the last known person to see Musil-Buehler, has been characterized as a person of interest in her disappearance and the Nov. 16, 2008, arson fire at Haley’s Motel. He has not been charged with any crime in connection to either case and has told the press he feels he is being framed.

If he is guilty of violating his probation, Cumber could return to prison for 15-30 years.

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