UPDATE February 26, 2017:
A lawsuit alleges that William Styler III made up his confession in the murder of Nancy Pfister in order to clear his then-wife from being prosecuted for the same crime, Summit Daily reports.
Nancy Masson-Styler is targeted with a wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday by Juliana Pfister, whose mother was murdered in February 2014, Summit Daily reports.
The suit also accuses Masson-Styler of profiting off Nancy Pfister’s death with a book deal and a $1 million life-insurance payment she collected after Styler committed suicide in his prison cell last August.
November 2, 2015:
Murder in Aspen: Ski-town socialite killed in her sleep (Pt. 1)
The peace and tranquility of beautiful Aspen, Colorado is suddenly shattered by the gruesome murder of the town's favorite daughter in February 2014.
Nancy Pfister was a celebrated high-society party girl whose notorious life of free love, designer drugs and champagne breakfasts reportedly included romances with the likes of Hollywood actors Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas.
The hunt for the killer of Nancy Pfister became a tangled legal fiasco of flimsy evidence and multiple arrests.
But now a Crime Watch Daily investigation has uncovered new bombshell evidence that could finally lay to rest a sensational murder mystery that's simply refused to die. It's a chilling confession from the grave that's so detailed in its graphic blow-by-blow description of Pfister's murder that it leaves little doubt it's true.
Aspen, Colorado is one of the richest small towns in the world, home to billionaires, millionaires and movie stars, the winter playground of the very lucky 1 percent.
The life of every high-society party was a famously wild woman named Nancy Pfister.
"She was definitely born into royalty here in our little town. And our little town of Aspen is visited by powerful people from all over the world, so Aspen royalty brushed up against royalty from New York, Miami, San Francisco, London, you name it," said Bob Braudis, a former Aspen sheriff, and Pfister's close friend of 40 years.
Nancy Pfister's father, Art, was one of the men who helped build Aspen back in the 1960s, a moneyed landowner who was the king of Buttermilk Mountain, turning it into one of the town's first and most elite ski resorts for the rich and famous. The Pfister family even has a street named after them.
"They were very well known in the community. They started Aspen," said District Attorney Sherry Caloia.
And Nancy Pfister became queen of the hill, a social butterfly who made partying her career.
The blue-blood heiress of one of Aspen's founding families would be discovered beaten to death with a hammer, her lifeless 57-year-old body stuffed in her bedroom closet, leaving residents of the exclusive Rocky Mountain hamlet in a state of shock.
And the mystery of who murdered her would not truly be solved until Crime Watch Daily obtained a killer's confession from the grave.
Murder in Aspen: Rental tenants clash with victim (Pt. 2)
Nancy Pfister was murdered just days after returning to Aspen from a three-month getaway to sunny Australia.
"She texted me an hour before she was murdered, basically, saying the jet lag crippled her and she was finally getting to sleep," said Bob Braudis.
But Pfister would never wake up.
One of the women police considered a suspect in Pfister's murder was Kathy Carpenter, who acted as Pfister's social secretary and personal accountant.
"Cathy Carpenter and Nancy Pfister were literally like husband and wife," said Daleen Berry, who wrote the book "Guilt By Matrimony," a book about the case. "Like couples that live together, they constantly relied on each other in every way, financially, picking up things from the store for each other."
Another woman considered a suspect in Pfister's murder was Nancy Styler, along with her retired doctor husband William, better known as "Trey," both of whom had been locked in a bitter money dispute with Pfister.
"So it wasn't a secret there was animosity between the Stylers and Nancy Pfister," said D.A. Caloia.
Trey and Nancy Styler, a noted horticulturist, had only recently arrived in Aspen from Denver, hoping to start a new life after losing just about everything they owned from bad investments.
Trey Styler had been forced to give up his career as an anesthesiologist when he was stricken with a neurological disease that crippled his legs, plunged him into depression and impaired his mental faculties.
"I watched this man, who was ultimately patient, ultimately gentle, I watched as he started getting more angry," said Nancy Styler.
His illness, the subsequent loss of income and some bad investments cost the Stylers the gorgeous designer home and idyllic life they had enjoyed in Denver for 30 years. But Nancy Styler convinced her husband they could move on and survive.
The Stylers decided to use what little cash they had left to start a Botox and laser spa in Aspen. New to town and full of optimism about their fresh start, the Stylers answered an ad in the Aspen Times that led them to the base of Buttermilk Mountain and a fork in the road.
Nancy Pfister was trying to rent out her home during the time she planned to visit Australia.
The Stylers agreed to rent the three-bedroom, three-bath house tucked away in the mountains for $4,000 a month for three months, with half the $12,000 paid in advance.
And Nancy Pfister threw in a bonus: The Stylers could stay there with her for free for a month before she left for Australia and even start up their spa there in return for helping her pack and prepare for her trip.
But Nancy Styler says what seemed like a dream come true quickly turned into a living nightmare.
"The minute I gave her the money I became her slave," said Nancy Styler.
It wasn't just helping Pfister pack.
"I started doing her hair and it was every day, sometimes twice, three times a day," said Styler.
She was also doing all the household chores and being treated like a servant by Pfister.
The Stylers breathed a big sigh of relief when Nancy Pfister finally left for Australia and they had the house to themselves.
But their joy would be short-lived: Nancy Pfister accused them in a series of e-mails of not taking care of the property and not paying the balance of their rent -- which Nancy Styler denies, saying they gave it to Pfister's assistant, Kathy Carpenter.
Then Pfister suddenly gave the Stylers four days' notice that she was coming home early from Australia and wanted them out of her house by the time she got back, writing in an e-mail: "Better get a moving truck and return to Denver."
"And we did our best to get out of there and we got all the main floor, all of her living space, got everything cleaned out of there," said Styler.
Then they moved into a nearby motel.
"But we had all of the spa equipment and my sewing machines down in the basement that we didn't have time to get out," said Styler.
Nancy Pfister wouldn't allow them to retrieve it, and on top of that said she planned to sue the Stylers for $14,000 for unpaid utilities and damage to the property.
Murder in Aspen: Suspects emerge in investigation (Pt. 3)
Nancy Pfister had been laying low and trying to sleep off jet lag after returning to Aspen from Australia.
But when her assistant Kathy Carpenter hadn't seen or heard from her boss for three days, she went to the socialite's house to check on her. There was no sign of Pfister anywhere, just a rancid smell coming from the bedroom closet. Carpenter opened the closet door, then made a hysterical 911 call.
"I found my friend in the closet. She's dead," Carpenter told the 911 operator.
Those very words immediately made Carpenter a suspected murderer.
"Odd thing was there was no way she could've seen it was Pfister," said D.A. Caloia. "When you went in the closet, saw what was in there, it looked like a pile of laundry."
Pfister's body had been completely wrapped in sheets.
"Nothing was exposed that would let you believe there was a body, blood, hair, anything. Unless you pulled back the sheets and looked at what was there you didn't know it was a person," said Caloia. "In questioning her later, she insisted she saw this while insisting she'd not touched any of the sheets, not moved anything, not pulled it back. She herself could see what was under there."
Police learned Carpenter had taken $6,000 and two valuable rings from Pfister's safety deposit box the next day.
"Kathy Carpenter had access to it, the key, could go in and out of it. But to empty out that box was very strange," said Caloia. "I don't think of that as something you'd do after you find your friend is dead, take those valuables and secrete them.
"It was odd," said Caloia. "There was some talk of how Nancy treated Kathy. At some points it wasn't very nice. There were some disputes they had so there was some concern on our part she'd possibly been involved in the murder."
But the way Nancy Pfister was murdered, with savage blows to the head with a hard blunt object, led police to believe that the motive was more likely anger and revenge than monetary gain.
"It was a brutal crime. When somebody's struck in the head with a very blunt object that usually gives you the idea there's some sort of animosity between the people," said Caloia.
An autopsy indicated Nancy Pfister had been dead for about three days before her body was found, giving the killer plenty of time to clean up the crime scene, including turning over the mattress to conceal bloodstains.
"I found it very unusual that more blood spatter didn't get on the rug, the bed, located around the room," said Caloia. "In actuality there were three small drops of blood on the carpet and on the headboard of the bed, but that was all you could see when you walked in that room."
The murder appears to have be well-planned to contain blood flow, with the body packed neatly in tied trash bags.
"A lot of careful attention must have been given to not getting blood splatter because you couldn't get it off, out of the carpet easily, so the person who did this took careful consideration about how to contain the blood, not let it get over the room," said Caloia.
Kathy Carpenter had already pointed the finger at Trey and Nancy Styler in her 911 call.
"My friend came back from Australia. There were people living there. She made threats to them about owing money," Carpenter said in the 911 call.
And she elaborates during her police interrogation.
"I'm not saying she said they did it, killed her, just that there was bad blood between them, was an argument, a lot of animosity, so there was a possibility they'd done it," said Caloia.
Police turn up at the door of the Stylers' motel room at 5:30 a.m. The Stylers were strip-searched, given prison jumpsuits to put on and taken in to be questioned separately. It was to be learned Nancy Styler had actually threatened to kill Nancy Pfister.
Evidence accrues in Aspen murder: 3 arrested, 1 confesses (Pt. 4)
Trey and Nancy Styler had both been taken in for questioning in the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.
But Trey, at age 65, frail and suffering from a debilitating neurological disease, didn't seem strong enough to commit the crime -- at least on his own -- to pack her body into trash bags, wrap it in sheets, drag it to the bedroom closet and then flip her mattress over to hide blood stains.
"Carrying a dead body, even if you drag it into the closet, is not an easy job for one person," said D.A. Caloia. "The key there being flipping a queen mattress from one side to the other by him would have been extremely difficult. Doable, because I've done it myself. For him to do that by himself would've been very difficult."
Of more interest to police was Nancy Styler, whose animosity toward Pfister was no secret. And just as Pfister's assistant, Kathy Carpenter, had pointed the finger at the Stylers, Nancy Styler was now pointing her finger back at her for the Pfister murder.
"I thought she and Kathy had a major fight and I thought Kathy had gotten drunk, blacked out and killed her," said Nancy Styler.
But Kathy Carpenter had never threatened to kill Pfister -- on the other hand, Nancy Styler had.
"Nancy had made some comments to the effect she'd rather see Nancy Pfister dead," said Caloia. "Said she'd like to kill her. She was with her husband, they had to move out of the house, had nowhere to go, no money, there was motivation there for sure, just like husband Trey."
Nancy Styler denied none of it when asked her about her hatred for Pfister.
Police learned the Stylers had gone to the Pfister house a couple of days before her body was found to talk to her about getting their spa equipment out of the basement. They say nobody answered the door, so they walked in and found no sign of Pfister, but did notice a foul odor in her bedroom.
"I thought I had dragged something from the dog on my foot going into that room," said Nancy Styler. "I wasn't really worried about, Is she OK? I thought she was off having a good time."
Without enough evidence to link them to the murder, the Stylers are released after 12 hours of questioning, but they remain under heavy suspicion, as did Kathy Carpenter.
"So we're looking at all three. That's our job. Got to look at all three," said Caloia.
Police don't know if one of them did it alone, if another had helped or if they had all done it together.
"Nancy Styler and Kathy Carpenter had developed a pretty good friendship with each other, had done things together, talked, called each other," said Caloia. "They could have developed a bond through this animosity."
Then a huge discovery: A trash collector empties out a garbage can just 100 yards from the Stylers' motel and finds personal items belonging to Nancy Pfister, and an old hammer with Pfister's blood on it. And on one of the plastic bags is Trey Styler's DNA.
"It broke the case," said Caloia.
And Nancy Pfister's blood is found in the trunk of the Stylers' car.
But there was still more to be uncovered: the key to Nancy Pfister's bedroom closet.
"Amazingly the key was ultimately found outside the door of their hotel room in Basalt, outside the door on the ground as if dropped," said Caloia.
Nancy Styler's defense attorney Garth McCarty suspects all the evidence may have been planted.
"I think all sides agreed the way the physical evidence was found seemed very suspicious. Almost too easy to find," said McCarty. "The murder weapon in particular being found in a town garbage can seems so unlikely that I think everybody, including law enforcement, was a little suspicious at first that it was found by chance."
Police arrest Trey and Nancy Styler and charge them with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and 11 days later they arrest Kathy Carpenter on the same charges, still not knowing which one did what, if anything -- but hoping they would turn on each other behind bars.
"There was a lot of pressure on law enforcement to solve the case, make arrests, appears to me given lack of evidence that law enforcement caved to that pressure, decided to cast that net wide as it could, in other words arrest all three people of interest, figure it out later rather than do a full thorough investigation," said McCarty.
The Stylers and Carpenter sit behind bars for three months before they turn up in handcuffs for their first court appearance.
It was one of the most anticipated trials in Aspen legal history. The courtroom was packed, and those who couldn't get in were all waiting to see what would happen in the sensational case of three people charged over the one murder. Then inside, the bombshell dropped: In a written affidavit, Trey Styler confessed to murdering Nancy Pfister on his own, without the knowledge or help of his wife Nancy or of Kathy Carpenter, who both emerge from court free women.
"I'm hysterical. I'm wondering, Did he do anything here or is he falling on his sword because he was worried about me being bound over for trial and me being in jail for another year, and is he taking the rap?" said Nancy Styler.
A lot of other people in Aspen are still asking the exact same question -- and more.
"I would say there is a very strong pervasive opinion among those familiar with the case that Nancy Styler beat a murder rap," said Bob Braudis, the former sheriff.
But nobody saw the next bombshell coming: Another secret confession uncovered exclusively by Crime Watch Daily graphically details the savage slaying of Nancy Pfister.
Murder in Aspen: 8-hour video captures detailed confession (Pt. 5)
"Most of us were relieved when the possibility of a long drawn out trial process was replaced with a confession," said Bob Braudis.
When Dr. Trey Styler confessed that he and he alone beat local socialite Nancy Pfister to death with a hammer, it seemed like the last nail in the coffin of a whodunit that wouldn't die.
Asked if she believes Trey Styler's confession, District Attorney Sherry Caloia said, "I believe most of it. Again I question whether he did the cleanup alone, but I don't have anything to say he didn't."
But at least the police had their killer, and the two women charged along with him -- wife Nancy and Pfister's assistant, Kathy Carpenter -- had been set free, even though Carpenter could still be re-charged if any new evidence surfaces.
As for Nancy Styler, she is off the hook forever and can't be re-charged in the future as part of the conditions of her husband's plea deal to serve 20 years for second-degree murder.
"We knew we weren't going to get any more evidence to link her to the crime," said D.A. Caloia. "For us it was a no-lose situation."
Asked about Trey Styler's confession, Caloia said: "I think it was a strategy and his conscience. He wanted to admit it was him, get on with his life, he was 65 and frail and I think he wanted to ensure his wife was well taken care of by being exonerated from the crime and he could feel good about it."
But Former Sheriff Bob Braudis is among those who still thinks Nancy Styler got away with murder.
"I would say there is a very strong, pervasive opinion among those familiar with the case that Nancy Styler beat a murder rap," said Braudis.
And if she didn't actually commit the murder with her own hand, Braudis thinks she had something to do with it.
"I do believe Nancy Styler was there when Nancy Pfister was murdered," said Braudis.
Braudis bases his suspicions on evidence that Nancy Styler's cellphone was emitting signals from Pfister's home at the same time Trey Styler said he was there murdering the socialite. Trey Styler explained it away by saying he had taken his sleeping wife's phone on the morning of the killing because his own phone had a low battery.
"I can't see Dr. Styler leaving his wife in a motel 20 miles away and taking her phone with him," said Braudis.
But D.A. Sherry Caloia says she couldn't disprove Trey Styler's story about the phone, and therefore prove his wife was there with him.
"It's always going to be a question in my mind, but I don't have the evidence to say she did it," said Caloia.
Any hope of getting more answers from Trey Styler appeared to literally die along with him when he committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell just in August 2015.
"It wasn't unexpected for me. He had made statements to that effect prior to this case to various people," said Caloia. "He was a beaten man. He had a lot of losses, was broke, 65, nowhere to go. I think he was down and out."
But now Crime Watch Daily has exclusively uncovered a bombshell piece of evidence nobody knew even existed: A second confession he made in prison just months before he killed himself.
Unlike his original confession, which was made in a written affidavit, this new confession is a chilling eight-hour-long video that shows Dr. Styler giving a gruesome play-by-play of the murder that could finally erase all doubts about his guilt and if he had accomplices.
Murder in Aspen: Doctor describes death in detailed confession (Pt. 6)
Dr. William "Trey" Styler, convicted of killing Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister, describes the lead-up to her murder as well as the aftermath, exonerating his wife.
The anatomy of the murder was coldly chronicled in gruesome, clinical detail. His dying confession was captured in a chilling eight-hour interview just months before he would hang himself in his jail cell.
The interview has been uncovered exclusively by a Crime Watch Daily investigation that may finally lay to rest a sensational murder mystery that's simply refused to die.
Dr. Trey Styler had previously confessed to police that he murdered Pfister, but only in an affidavit that many doubted was true. Many suspected he was taking the rap to free his wife, who had been jailed along with him on first-degree murder charges.
"And if he continued to deny it, he knew he wasn't going to help Nancy," said author Daleen Berry.
Trey Styler agreed to record a second video confession with Berry, author of a book about the case titled "Guilt by Marriage" in the hope that it would end persistent suspicions that Nancy Styler had something to do with the crime.
"He said 'I need to tell the truth for Nancy because she deserves me to do that,' the least I can do is come clean on this," said Berry.
Trey Styler remembers leaving his wife asleep in their motel room while he goes to confront Nancy Pfister over their eviction from her house, her demands for $14,000 in utility costs and property damage, and her refusal to let them retrieve beauty spa equipment they'd left in her basement.
"I remember going there with the intention of talking to her," Trey Styler says in the recorded interview. "I was angry with her and needed to challenge her and to demand that she retract her demands for more money. I intended to confront her and demand that she back down."
When he arrives at the Pfister home, Trey Styler knocks on the door, gets no response, and notices the door is unlocked.
"All I remember was calling her name, coming in and finding her blissfully asleep," Trey says in the interview.
Trey starts talking to Pfister, but can't wake her up.
"I think part of me was thinking she was playing asleep and that she was just not responding," says Styler in the interview. "I've been told since that time she had earplugs in and that's why she didn't hear me. I didn't know that at the time."
Nancy Pfister's silence sends him into a blind rage.
"There she was sleeping peacefully while my life was going down the tubes and the next thing I knew it had been done," Styler says on the tape.
He'd hit Nancy Pfister in the head with a hammer he found in her house.
"I struck the first blow in the back of her head because that was available. Since she did not react to that obviously it took her from sleep straight in unconsciousness," says Trey Styler.
Dr. Styler takes Pfister's pulse and sees she's not dead.
"There was some time that -- I wasn't bang-bang-bang. It was bang," says Styler. "'Oh sh-t, and what do I do now,' and then it took a couple of minutes before I thought, 'Well, let's make sure,' so I hit her in the two frontal lobes kind of around the top because I knew that would preclude any consciousness."
He grabs an extension cord as he plans what to do with Pfister's dead body.
"I wanted to contain her and the blood so she didn't bleed on the things, so I grabbed some big trash bags, put one over her head, and put one on her feet. But that wasn't going to do it so I used that extension cord to pull her up like this," says Styler. "I rolled the body onto a sheet, I rolled up under the bed on the floor and then dragged the sheet on my knees, basically the sheet is there. Grab the sheet so to speak, wrapped it up and pulled it to me back up, pulled it to me, back up, pulled it to me back up. I didn't have any problem with it at all. I still have a little upper body strength."
Then he stuffs the wrapped body of Nancy Pfister in her bedroom closet.
"There's part of me that can't believe I did do it," says Styler in the interview. "I still can't see myself as someone who did it."
And he insists his wife had nothing to do with the murder.
"One thing I knew beyond doubt that Nancy didn't have any involvement in that. She had no knowledge of that," Trey Styler says in the interview.
But many still have doubts about that, suspecting Trey was covering for the woman he loved so much.
Asked about people in Aspen who continue to have doubts, Nancy Styler said, "I am seeing progress. Seeing people who don't want to look at me, afraid to have their children next to me, saying 'How could we believe that of you.' There will be some that don't believe me ever. What can I say?"