Yesterday I finished reading an intriguing true crime book called “Guilt by Matrimony” A Memoir of Love, Madness, and the Murder of Nancy Pfister”. The story involved the 2014 murder of wealthy, Aspen Colorado socialite Nancy Pfister, age 57, and was written by Nancy Styler. Both Nancy Styler and her husband Dr. William Styler were arrested for the capital murder of Ms. Pfister. Colorado is a death penalty state.
Nancy Styler was a prominent scientist and her husband a highly esteemed anesthesiologist in Denver, before bad luck reversed their fortunes. Dr. Styler was diagnosed with a degenerative illness and could no longer practice medicine. His lawsuit against the hospital that fired him came to an unsuccessful end after they exhausted their last savings on legal fees. They sold their opulent Denver home for far less than they expected, and were looking to start over, now in their early 60’s.
They ended up in Aspen hoping to open a spa, and met Ms. Pfister, an eccentric member of the “lucky sperm” club, who was looking for a tenant for her home while she was away on an extended vacation in Australia. She seemed like a fun-loving, sophisticated woman, and she said she was interested in investing in their new spa. The Stylers didn’t hesitate to rent the home.
They moved in immediately, sharing the home with Ms. Pfister until she was ready to leave. They quickly became disillusioned with their landlady who was not what they thought. She was manipulative, mercurial, and had a penchant for pink champagne, in vast quantities. The Stylers met Ms. Pfister’s close friend, Kathy, a bank teller, who did her bidding without question. Sharing Ms. Pfister’s limelight appeared to be sufficient compensation for Kathy.
All was well, until the Styler’s received a brusque message from Ms. Pfister who was returning to Aspen earlier than expected. She rudely told them to get out and accused them of failing to pay the rent. They scrambled to move their furnishings and vacate the home, moving into a local motel.
During the move-out they were grateful their landlady was not home, but became alarmed when they saw her dog was alone in the home and had made a mess all over the house. They called Kathy, who fetched the dog.
Early the next morning, the police barged into the Styler’s motel room, ordered them to strip, took photos, and handcuffed them. They had no idea what was going on as they were driven to the local lockup. After hours of questioning without a lawyer present, Nancy Styler and Dr. Styler were charged with capital murder. Both denied any knowledge of Nancy Pfister’s death. Ms. Styler suspected she had overdosed on pills and alcohol. She later was told that Ms. Pfister received hammer blows to her head and was stuffed in her bedroom closet. Ms. Styler was gobsmacked, without bail, and with no funds to retain a lawyer a public defender was appointed to represent her. Her husband had separate counsel.
She languished in jail for three months while her lawyers investigated the state’s case and concluded they had insufficient evidence to hold Nancy. But Nancy’s release only came when her husband made a startling admission. He said he had gone to the Pfister home early one morning to discuss Nancy Pfister’s allegations, which had enraged him, lost control of himself, and killed her. Nancy Styler didn’t believe him, thinking he was taking the blame in order that she be freed and exonerated. But she was wrong. He had done it. His illness had also affected his mind and the anger and resentment he had carried since losing his medical position exploded that morning. She immediately filed for divorce.
Dr. Styler was convicted of second degree murder, later committing suicide in his prison cell. He had a one million dollar life insurance policy that was paid to his wife.
Yesterday the Aspen Daily News reported that Nancy Pfister’s daughter, Juliana Pfister, has brought a wrongful death suit against Nancy Styler alleging she assisted her husband in her mother’s murder, suggesting that Dr. Styler did not have the physical capacity to hide the body, as he did. Ms. Pfister is seeking financial compensation from the life insurance funds and the profits of Ms. Styler’s intriguing book.
This story is an enlightening example of how life can change so quickly, from the upper echelons of Denver society to a jail cell in Aspen…
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang