William Styler, Confessed Killer of Aspen Socialite, Takes Life in Jail Cell

It's the latest grim twist in a crime that's consumed Aspen for well over a year — the murder of socialite Nancy Pfister.

William Styler, a former Denver doctor in poor physical condition, confessed to killing Pfister, thereby exonerating his wife, Nancy Styler, who'd initially been charged in the homicide — and about whose innocence a prosecutor still has doubts.

Now, William is dead of an apparent jail-cell suicide — and Nancy is planning a book about the incident with the damning title Guilty by Matrimony.

As we've reported, Pfister was renting her home to the Stylers — but early in 2014, she shared a Facebook post implying that they weren't keeping up with payments. Then, in late February of last year, ex-Pfister employee Katherine Carpenter discovered Pfister's battered body in the closet of the home.

The 911 call featuring Carpenter is heard on one of the many videos from an archive from a 48 Hours investigation broadcast earlier this year.

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 (it's shared here as well), notes questions from the beginning about 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 this belief became. 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.

But in the 48 Hours program, Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bryan makes it clear she thinks Nancy Styler at least knew about the killing, and might have taken an active hand in it.

"What really stuck out at me...was she couldn’t stop talking about how horrible a person that she thought Nancy Pfister was,” Bryan said. "It appeared that there could have been enough anger there that she would actually have been the one who killed Nancy Pfister.”

Bryan also continues to harbor doubts about Carpenter, telling the program, “Kathy Carpenter was a little bit too quick to point the finger at suspects after discovering the body. She did have motive. Nancy Pfister treated her badly at times. She hurt her. There was this up and down — their relationship was a rollercoaster."

As noted by CBS4, both women say they had nothing to do with Pfister's death.

The latest chapter in the story was written yesterday morning. That's when, according to the Aspen Times, William's body was found in his cell, located in the Arrowhead Correctional Center. An autopsy is scheduled to take place today, but a spokesman for the coroner's office tells the paper his death seems to have been "self-inflicted. There doesn't appear to be any foul play."

For her part, Nancy Styler had divorced William and moved to Massachusetts, and the Times notes that she hadn't seen her former husband since last summer. However, she issued the following comment about his death: “Trey is now at peace after being tortured for such a long time. He was a successful, brilliant doctor, incredible and loving husband and father, and a gentle man. I hope people will remember him for the man he once was before his physical and mental illness took over his life.”

The Times points out that Nancy Styler's statement also hyped Guilty by Matrimony, planned for a November release. The tome will supposedly "tell the story of her and Trey Styler’s life, details of the first murder to rock Aspen in twenty years and the theories on what really happened.”

Look below to see William's final booking photo, the aforementioned affidavit and six videos about the case from 48 Hours.

Nancy Styler Arrest Affidavits

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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