The decision to drop first-degree murder charges against Nancy Styler — and the possibility of charges against Katherine Carpenter being dropped as well — should not be taken as a suggestion that the prosecution’s case in the Nancy Pfister homicide is coming apart, District Attorney Sherry Caloia said Wednesday.
“It’s gotten stronger, it’s not unraveling, but it could be coming to a resolution,” Caloia said, adding that more details likely will come to light at a status conference set for 9 a.m. Friday in Pitkin County District Court.
Caloia confirmed that Nancy Styler’s husband, William Styler, “absolutely” remains a prime suspect in the investigation.
William Styler, 66, and Carpenter, 56, are being held in separate jails without bond. Both are expected to appear in court for the Friday hearing before District Court Chief Judge James Boyd. The exact reason for the conference has not been revealed.
On Tuesday, Caloia announced that her office was dismissing all charges against Nancy Styler, 62. The Stylers, formerly of the Front Range, and Carpenter, a longtime Aspen bank teller, were charged in March with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Another charge, accessory after the fact to murder, was added in early May.
Caloia said new information was obtained late last week that led to the charges against Nancy Styler being dropped. Officially, she was in the custody of the Pitkin County Jail since her arrest on March 3. Shortly after her arrest, she was transferred to the Eagle County Jail as part of a decision to separate all three defendants in the case.
In her official statement on Tuesday night, Caloia said, “With the new information received and a lack of other evidence refuting the new information, the District Attorney could not prove that Ms. Styler was involved in the crimes.”
Nancy Styler believes that the dismissal of the charges means that she has been “exonerated” of taking part in any crime, according to a family spokesperson.
Andrea Beaumont Lewis, a Denver-based CNN news producer who said she has known Nancy Styler and her family for several years, said Nancy Styler is living in Colorado for the time being. She would not disclose the location of Nancy Styler’s whereabouts.
The dismissal of charges “basically means she’s innocent. It’s a mistake for a prosecutor to say that ‘we still don’t know if she did it.’ [Nancy Styler] can never be tried for this,” said Lewis, referring to a comment Caloia reportedly made to the Aspen Daily News stating, “I’m not saying she’s innocent.”
Suggesting that Nancy Styler might have been involved in Pfister’s death, while dismissing the charges and setting her free, puts Nancy Styler in danger, Lewis said.
“There are obviously friends of Nancy Pfister who want whoever killed her to be behind bars, but that is not Nancy Styler,” said Lewis. “Aspen is a small community and it’s not a very safe thing for the prosecutor to be saying that she could still be guilty when she’s not. What if there are people who believe the prosecutor and decide to go after her?”
Because of the ordeal, Nancy Styler faces great difficulty, Lewis said.
“She’s starting over from square one,” she said.
Beth Krulewitch, one of two attorneys representing Nancy Styler, said Wednesday she could not comment on what new evidence led to the dismissal of charges against her client. During a March court hearing, Krulewitch said in open court that the evidence against her client was “razor thin,” without elaborating.
Krulewitch said Nancy Styler is in the process of trying to put her life back together.
“She has a lot of love and support from friends and family throughout the country,” the Aspen criminal defense attorney said. “I don’t think she knows, right now, where she’s going to end up or what she’ll be doing.
“This all happened very suddenly,” Krulewitch added. “One day she’s being held without bond and the next day she’s out of jail, with no clothes, no ID, no nothing. It’s been quite a tumultuous and traumatic time.”
Pfister was 57 at the time of her death. She had been renting her West Buttermilk home to the Stylers late last year and early this year while vacationing in Australia. She returned in late February, and her body was found in a closet at her home on Feb. 26.
A brief coroner’s report states that she was the victim of homicide as a result of blunt force trauma. On her Facebook page, Pfister had complained that the Stylers had not been paying rent.
Carpenter, a longtime local bank teller, had served as a personal assistant to Pfister in recent years and helped her to rent out the home. Authorities have not publicly offered a motive in the case or explained what led them to arrest the Stylers and Carpenter. The affidavits in support of the arrest warrants remain sealed, although Judge Gail Nichols recently unsealed some of the other documents in the defendants’ files, mostly responses to motions filed by defense attorneys.
A preliminary hearing for all three defendants had been set for June 9 to June 13, but was recently rescheduled for June 25, 27 and 30 and July 2. It is not known whether the recent developments involving Nancy Styler or the possibility of the dismissal of charges against Katherine Carpenter will affect that schedule.