Judge sets deadline for responses to motion to unseal Pfister case documents
Ryan Summerlin July 3, 2014
Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols has set a deadline of July 11 for responses to The Aspen Times’ motion to unseal affidavits in support of arrests in the Nancy Pfister homicide case.
The Times filed the motion Tuesday. It asks the court to make available the law enforcement statements that resulted in the March 3 arrest of William Styler, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on June 20, as well as affidavits supporting the arrests of Nancy Styler and Katherine Carpenter, whose murder charges have been dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office.
Nancy Styler is William Styler’s wife. Carpenter is a former Aspen bank teller who was said to be a longtime friend and personal assistant to Pfister, who was 57.
“Petitioner [The Aspen Times] believes it is in the public’s best interest to understand the developments that led to the arrests of Katherine Carpenter and William and Nancy Styler,” the motion reads.
To date, neither the District Attorney’s Office nor the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office have explained in detail what evidence or circumstances led them to ask Nichols to sign the arrest warrants for the three suspects. When William Styler admitted his guilt in court, he did not provide a motive or explain how he committed the crime. First Amendment legal experts have said that in the vast majority of murder cases in Colorado, affidavits in support of arrest warrants are unsealed within a few weeks of a suspect being officially charged.
William Styler, who with his wife was renting Pfister’s West Buttermilk Road house late last year and early this year as she was vacationing abroad, was embroiled with Pfister in a dispute over money, according to prosecutors. In his confession, he said he acted alone, using a hammer to hit Pfister in the head as she slept on Feb. 24, prosecutors have said. Authorities found her body in a closet inside her home two days later.
Nancy Styler also was arrested on March 3, while Carpenter was arrested on March 14. They spent 106 days and 96 days in custody, respectively, before the charges were dropped and they were set free.
District Attorney Sherry Caloia said earlier this week that her office is in the process of deciding whether to charge Carpenter with theft of $6,000 that belonged to Pfister. Carpenter’s attorneys have said that Carpenter had access to Pfister’s safe-deposit box, which is where the money had been kept.
Facing a similar motion filed on behalf of nine media outlets, Nichols ruled in early June that the arrest affidavits would be unsealed following a preliminary hearing scheduled jointly for all three defendants in late June and early July. Defense attorneys had argued against making the documents public, saying it affected their clients’ right to a fair trial.
William Styler’s confession and conviction eliminated the need for a preliminary hearing and a trial — therefore making the judge’s decision to release the affidavits following a hearing moot and leading the Times to file a new motion.
The court has notified the following parties about the July 11 deadline:
• Assistant District Attorneys Andrea Bryan and Scott Turner.
• Tina Fang and Sara Steele, of the Public Defender’s Office, which represented William Styler.
• Garth McCarty and Beth Krulewitch, attorneys representing Nancy Styler.
• Greg Greer and Kathleen Lord, attorneys representing Carpenter.