A crime of passion sets background for local novelist
MUNCY – A fascinating story was revealed when Cutter Wood, grandson of the late Lycoming County Judge Thomas Wood of Muncy, developed a curiosity for solving an inexplicable mystery of a missing woman in Anna Maria Island, a resort town off the coast of Florida, not far from Tampa Bay, where he spent some childhood summers with his family.
“It is the story of a crime,” he relates on the front cover of “Love and Death in the Sunshine State.” It happened in 2008 at a motel where he used to stay as a guest. The local owner went missing and none of the small town’s residents had many facts to go on, so Cutter gathered and assembled as much information as he could which led to three major suspects of interest – her husband, her boy friend and the man who stole her car. Soon after Sabine Musil-Bueler disappeared, her motel was set on fire, the boyfriend flees the county, and detectives begin digging on the beach.
Cutter Wood decided to do some investigative work after his mother, Gloria Miele, sent him a newspaper clipping detailing the suspicious fire on the island. Cutter went there and began to interview the three suspects while panning out pages of detective work that led to his “gripping novel” of suspense and mystery. Not only did he turn out a winning novel, but he helped the investigators solve the crime. At his book signing in Williamsport this spring he said, “The book is a result of a deeply reflective true crime that explores the darker nature of humanity and relationships.”
He added, “It was kind of a weird thing on the disappearance of the owner, and it seemed like a homicide.” The news story caught his attention immediately and he thought, “Why would someone set the place on fire. There was no body, no weapon, and no motive for police officials to go on.”
The arson happened 12 days after the woman’s disappearance.
Cutter, who now lives in New York City with his wife and young child comes to visit his parents at their Muncy home. Now in his young 30s, he said much of his writing inspiration has come from his grandfather, Judge Wood, whose writings frequently appeared in the Muncy Luminary.
His great grandfather Thomas Wood, Sr. wanted to cover the essential principles of grammar and sentence structure when he was teaching at the Carnegie Technical School of Pittsburg and wrote a grammar text book. “A book was needed that would be simple, direct and dignified,” said the late Thomas Wood, Sr. “I used that book on occasion,” said Cutter whose previous works include essays published in Harper’s and other magazines. In 2018, he received a Fellowship for the National Endowment for the Arts.
He was a graduate student in creative non-fiction at the University of Ohio and was working on his Masters in 2009 when Cutter returned to Florida. “I went back there to ask some interesting psychological questions of the suspects,” he said. “It was a strange situation.”
He started with the sheriff’s records and spoke with some of the residents. The island which attracts many tourists has a population of only 7,000 or less. “Many seemed unsettled by the incident and my questions,” Cutter said. He made numerous trips and at first, he wanted to write about the people, but the longer he spent there, the more he learned about the suspects, the woman and her relationships and how the whole story became unraveled. “At first, I thought it was a cold case, and the lead detective, who had retired, came back to work on the case because it bothered him that it wasn’t solved.”
Finally ten years later Cutter’s probing led to a confession and a trial. “You will just have to read the book,” he said to see “who did it.”
The book “Love and Death in the Sunshine State” is published by Algonquin Books and was released on April 17, 2018. Cutter has received national press time and has been on a book tour most of the spring months. He likes coming home to visit his Muncy family that was once a 99 acre farm. The home was built in 1863 by his great grandfather, Thomas Wood, Sr. “A Wood has always lived in Muncy since 1813,” said Cutter Wood. Judge Wood was a bankruptcy judge for the farmers and lived to age 93.
On many occasion Cutter spent time with his grandfather and would visit him often on weekends in Muncy. “He was compassionate, always wanted to be fair,” said Cutter. “I knew him best through his writings.”