Update: Nancy Styler affidavit suggests William Styler needed help killing Nancy Pfister
A Facebook photo of William and Nancy Styler. Additional images, videos and documents below.
Update: In our most recent coverage of the investigation into Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister's murder (see it below), we noted that the conviction of frail-looking 66-year-old William Styler as the sole person responsible for the killing -- and prosecutors' decision to drop charges against Styler's wife Nancy and a friend, Kathy Carpenter -- had raised questions in part because "the physical actions William described seem to be beyond his capabilities." Now, with the release of Nancy's arrests affidavits, we know law enforcers felt the same way. Continue for more details and the complete document.
As we've reported, Pfister was renting her home to William, a former Denver doctor, and his wife -- but earlier this year, she shared a Facebook post implying that the Stylers weren't keeping up with payments. Then, in late February, Carpenter discovered Pfister's battered body in the closet of the home.
A portrait of Nancy Pfister.
After the Stylers and Carpenter were arrested for the crime, William told authorities that he'd acted alone in taking Pfister's life. He said he pounded her with a hammer as she slept, then removed her dead body from the bed, wrapped her remains in sheets and trash bags and dragged them to the aforementioned closet.
The affidavit, released by the court at the request of numerous media organizations, notes doubt from the beginning in William's account. The report's author writes, "Based on my experience, I believe it would be very difficult for one person to place a dead body in a trash bag alone. I know how difficult it can be to move a dead body with four grown men."
Granted, William is said to have had a bad temper, continually cursing under his breath about his dispute with Pfister. But he wasn't alone in his antipathy for their landlord. Kathy Carpenter's mom told investigators she heard Nancy say of Pfister, "I'll kill her."
Moreover, William's condition was shaky in the days after the body's discovery, as opposed to deteriorating while he was in custody. The affidavit recounts an exchange that began with Styler under the covers of a bed in a room he and Nancy were renting at an area lodge. Some excerpts from what followed:
"William Styler had a very difficult time standing."
"I was barely able to help him into a standing position."
"I learned through both Stylers that William Styler had a medical condition akin to Lou Gehrig's disease."
"Starting about fourteen years ago, William Styler began breaking his feet consistently."
Given these physical infirmities, authorities clearly felt William had help in killing Pfister -- and the more they learned about the murder scene, the firmer they became in this belief. For instance, the mattress had been flipped in order to hide a blood stain, and the report's author writes, "Knowing the physical and medical state of William Styler, it is difficult to believe that he could flip a queen-sized mattress from one side to the other."
The affidavit contains much more damning info, including details of William's failed polygraph test and the author's conclusion that "I have probable cause to believe that Nancy Styler conspired to and was complicit in the murder of Nancy Pfister."
Nonetheless, 9th Judicial District DA Sherry Caloia ultimately dropped charges against Nancy Styler and accepted William's guilty plea. She also cleared Carpenter in the murder and isn't pursuing theft allegations against her related to Pfister. Read more about those accusations below, following the Nancy Styler arrest affidavits.
A Facebook photo of Nancy Pfister. More images and videos below.
Update, 8:52 a.m. July 16: Over the past several months, we've reported about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister and the subsequent arrests of tenants William and Nancy Styler and longtime friend Kathy Carpenter in relation to the killing; we've included previous coverage below.
Last month, charges were dropped against Nancy Styler in the days before her husband confessed to acting alone in the homicide. And now, the last of the allegations against Carpenter are history, too.
Pfister, whose parents co-founded the Buttermilk ski area, was a staple on the Aspen social scene for decades -- and was reportedly engaged for a brief time to marry actor Michael Douglas.
As such, the community was shocked when news broke about Pfister's death: On February 26, Carpenter, who worked at an area bank, discovered her battered and beaten body in a closet of the latter's tony Aspen residence.
Nancy Pfister's Google Plus pic.
In the days and weeks that followed, retired Denver doctor William Styler and his wife Nancy, who'd been renting Pfister's place since late 2013, were arrested on suspicion of committing the crime -- and Carpenter was fitted with cuffs of her own just over a week later.
Then, last month, charges against Nancy were dismissed without explanation, and prosecutors suggested that Carpenter might also be cleared in the killing -- which she was, for reasons that became clear over succeeding days.
As detailed by the Aspen Daily News, Styler told prosecutors that he went to Pfister's home on February 24 to talk about a financial disagreement; Styler was "enraged that Pfister refused to give back equipment he and his wife had planned to use in a spa business unless they paid her around $14,000," the paper reports.
Pfister is said to have been asleep upon his arrival -- so Styler claims to have located a hammer and used it to hit her in the head several times. Afterward, he told investigators he removed Pfister's body from the bed, wrapped her remains in sheets and trash bags and dragged them into the closet, where Carpenter, alerted by a strong smell and concern over Pfister's untended dog, found them two days later.
The physical actions William described seem to be beyond his capabilities; during court appearances, he's been confined to a wheelchair and appears to be gaunt and weak. But he insisted that he acted alone, and other evidence wasn't strong enough to contradict this assertion -- so prosecutors dismissed murder allegations against Nancy and Kathy Carpenter. William then pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to twenty years in jail.
A screen capture from ABC News coverage of William Styler during a court appearance.
This turn of events didn't completely exonerate Carpenter. Another Aspen Daily News reveals that on February 27, one day after finding Pfister dead, she allegedly "stole $6,000 and two rings from Pfister's safety deposit box."
These actions could have led to felony theft charges against Carpenter even though she was no longer implicated in Pfister's murder. However, District Attorney Sherry Caloia noted in a press release that because Carpenter had Pfister's permission to access the safety deposit box, the theft accusation couldn't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
As a result, the theft charges against Carpenter are no more. And while they could be resurrected if new information surfaces, the Pfister investigation is likely at an end, with William Styler likely to spend the rest of his days in prison (he's 66) and Pfister's friends, family and loved ones left to process a terrible end to a memorable life.
Continue for our most recent previous coverage of the Nancy Pfister investigation, including additional photos and videos. Update, 6:26 a.m. June 18: A few months back, we told you about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister and the shocking arrests of William and Nancy Styler, an ex-doctor and his wife in their sixties who were renting Pfister's home.
Now, all charges have been dropped against Nancy Styler -- but thus far, prosecutors aren't saying why.
As we've reported, Pfister's parents co-founded the Buttermilk ski area, and she's long been a part of the Aspen social scene. Indeed, the U.K. Daily Mail reports that she was briefly engaged to marry the actor Michael Douglas.
In recent years, Pfister has been best known for her philanthropic efforts, and she traveled widely. However, she reportedly had to cut short a trip to Australia earlier this year because of problems with the Stylers. Here's the screen capture of a Facebook post alluding to the situation:
Click to enlarge.
The Kathy Carpenter mentioned in the note had been hired by Pfister over the years to rent the home where the Stylers had been staying, according to the Aspen Times.
Carpenter, an employee of Alpine Bank in Aspen, is also the person who found Pfister on February 26 and called authorities; she'd been bludgeoned to death and her body left in a closet. But while all of the investigative attention early on seemed to be directed toward the Stylers, Carpenter was being eyed for complicity, too.
The Times notes that Carpenter's Subaru was seized by law enforcers along with the Stylers' Jaguar -- and a week-plus after authorities cuffed the Stylers, Carpenter was arrested, too.
A portrait of Wililam and Nancy Styler.
Arrest affidavits against the Stylers and Carpenter are still sealed at this writing, but it appears the Stylers were in financial difficulties despite William's twenty years as a prominent anesthesiologist; he practiced in Denver between 1981 and 2001. The Times documents a legal struggle with an attorney that ended with William ordered to pay $610,000 -- a burden that apparently had him on the brink of suicide last year.
Of course, Aspen is hardly a place that's easily accessible to those who are financially destitute -- and Pfister's home, where the Stylers moved last November, is said to have rented for $4,000 a month.
Another photo of Nancy Pfister, from her Facebook page.
In addition, CBS4 reports that Pfister and the Stylers may have planned to go into business together in Aspen before a falling out.
Search warrants made public last week seemed to spell more bad news for the Stylers; the Aspen Daily News reports that investigators recovered what they believe to be the murder weapon from near a hotel room where the Stylers were staying and blood was found in their car.
But yesterday brought a surprising reversal.
Continue for more about the latest developments in the Nancy Pfister case, including additional photos and two videos. All charges were dropped against Nancy Styler. And when asked if the same thing could happen in the case of Carpenter, Pitkin County District Attorney Sherry Caloia told the Daily News, "We're looking at that."
A screen capture of Pfister's Aspen home.
Thus far, Caloia isn't detailing the reasons for freeing Nancy Styler. "I'm not saying she's innocent," Caloia stresses in the latest Times piece. "I'm saying we received new evidence, and based on what we already had, it made it quite clear we would not be able to establish any of the charges against her.
"Rather than take it through a preliminary hearing and hope we got better evidence, we decided to just do the motion to dismiss now."
Nancy Pfister's last Facebook profile photo.
Note that Caloia made no mention of dismissing allegations against William Styler. Do prosecutors now think he acted alone in killing Pfister? More details are expected soon in a case that's already taken more than its share of shifts.
Look below to see booking photos of the Stylers and Carpenter, followed by a CBS4 report from March in which Pfister's daughter, Juliana, shares memories of her mom, and another piece from the station focusing on the Stylers and the high regard in which they were held by people they knew in Denver.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.
- Reader: Landlords Are Overcharging Marijuana Businesses Because They Can
Thu., Sep. 3, 7:00pm
Fri., Sep. 4, 7:00pm
Sat., Sep. 5, 12:00am
Sat., Sep. 5, 12:30pm
- Remembering the Denver Wax Museum and Nine More Long-Gone Local Landmarks
- Dear Mexican: Was Jimi Hendrix Part Mexican?