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Murder in Aspen

An Aspen "true original" is found brutally slain in her mountain home. She had enemies -- who wanted her dead?

Produced by Liza Finley

[This story was first broadcast on March 7, 2015. It was updated on Dec. 19.]

No one could believe it. Nancy Pfister, one of Aspen's true originals, was dead. She was found bludgeoned in her own bedroom -- her body bound with an electrical cord, wrapped in plastic garbage bags and hidden underneath sheets in her closet.

"Whoever did this really did this in an extremely horrible way. I mean, in her bed, in her sleep. I mean could you imagine?" said Mark Seal, a contributing editor of Vanity Fair and a CBS News consultant who calls Aspen home. "Everybody wanted to know what. Everybody wanted to know how. Everybody wanted to know why. And everybody wanted to know who."

Suddenly, doors were being locked and alarms turned on.

"Aspen residents wanted to know that they were safe," Deputy District Attorney Andrea Bryan said. "This was a very big deal for the community."

Nancy Pfister's Aspen home
Nancy Pfister's Aspen home

And it was a very big deal for Andrea Bryan. It was her first homicide case -- her first visit to a working murder scene.

"I was feeling a little bit of fear," she said. "And you don't know what your reaction is going to be to seeing a dead body."

It was the first time she had smelled death.

"You could tell immediately -- that there was a body in that room," she said.

Yet strangely, the room itself didn't look like someone had just been beaten to death.

"It wasn't particularly bloody. There was hardly any visible blood at all except for a small smear on the headboard, a very small smear," Bryan explained.

Nancy Pfister
Nancy Pfister

With the death of Nancy Pfister, Aspen lost a piece of its history, a member of its royalty. In this part of the world, the Pfister family is as much a part of landscape as the trees for which this city was named.

Buttermilk Mountain, one of Aspen's world-famous ski hills, was developed by Nancy's father, Art Pfister.

"And that's really what made the Pfister family part of the royalty of Aspen," family friend Tim Mooney said. "Art Pfister was definitely a Clark Gable, kind of bigger than life, kind of movie star character ... He had the real stuff."

Art Pfister met his match in wife Betty, says Mark Seal.

"Betty Pfister was as epic as Art Pfister. She was a legendary World War II woman pilot," he explained. "She flew gliders, hot air balloons. She had a brightly colored helicopter that she called Tinker Bell. ...I mean these were people who were adventurous to the end."


And they passed on that adventurous spirit to all three daughters -- especially Nancy.

"She was like -- a tornado -- she was always doing stuff," said David Koffend.

Koffend, one of Nancy's high school boyfriends, remembers getting swept up in that whirling orbit on their first date at the local skating rink. They'd barely laced up when she started flirting with an older guy.

"And Nancy starts talking to him, and then [laughs] they start walkin' away and ... she just, like, ditched me, you know? It was a date," he recalled.

"Most people would never talk to that person ever again," said Maher.

"I was irritated - see that was one of the beauties of Nancy. 'Cause she could kinda, like, defuse it," said Koffend.

Nancy Pfister was a real heartbreaker, says close friend, artist Michael Cleverly.

"She had a lot of boyfriends ... as a rule they didn't last terribly long. She was a complicated girl. I'm sure it was hard for her and hard for -- the boys in her life," he said laughing. "She dated Jack Nicholson ... she dated Michael Douglas, everyone knows that."

Nancy Pfister was perfect casting for that moment in time in Aspen history - the era of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, an iconic figure who defined the drug culture in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

"Nancy and Hunter were a team. They'd laugh and cry," Mooney said. "They were always at the top of the heap."

Pfister never settled down long enough to get married, but she did have a little girl named Juliana.

"She absolutely loved people," Juliana Pfister said. "She was a complete social butterfly. ...when she walked into the room ... it was just, like, a energy force field that was -- you know, like -- a bright light. I've never met anyone else in the whole world like my mom. ...she was just a really, really special person."

Says Cleverly, "If you came into town you would end up meeting Nancy Pfister."

Kathy Carpenter, left, and Nancy Pfister
Kathy Carpenter, left, and Nancy Pfister
Kathy Carpenter

When Kathy Carpenter came into town, she was a single mother working as a bank teller. She met Pfister and the two became fast friends.

"Either you love Nancy or you hate her... I loved her. There was something special about her," Carpenter said. "She introduced me to art ... eating sushi. Drinking champagne."

"It sounds like ... she really took you -- introduced you to places you had never seen and might not have ever seen if it hadn't been for her," Maher commented to Carpenter.

"Exactly," she replied.

In return, Carpenter says, Pfister expected her to take on a sort of personal assistant role. It was something that occasionally led to friction in their relationship.

"She could be demanding. You know? 'Kathy, would you go get that?' When she'd leave town I'd watch over the house ... collect her mail ... help her pack," she said.

"Did she pay you to help her do those things?" Maher asked.

"No," Carpenter replied.

Despite their conflicts, Kathy Carpenter says she cared deeply for Nancy Pfister, and on Feb. 26, 2014, when Pfister hadn't been heard from in several days, it would be Kathy Carpenter who went to check on her.

LIVES COLLIDING

"Nancy came of age in a magical era of Aspen," Mark Seal said. "She was 14 when John Denver wrote his Aspen anthem ... 'Rocky Mountain High,' which made the world fall in love with the place."

But over the years, Nancy Pfister grew tired of those famous Rocky Mountain winters. Each year, she would escape to someplace warm. That year, she was planning a trip to Australia.

However, the princess of Aspen had limited access to the family fortune. So to pay for the trip to Australia, Nancy Pfister decided to rent her home and took out an ad in The Aspen Times.

"The ad read, "three bedroom house, three-and-a-half baths. House on the mountain. No cats," Nancy Styler told Maher.

Nancy Styler, a world-renowned lily pad expert and her husband, Trey, a retired anesthesiologist, were looking to leave Denver and start over in Aspen -- to rebuild a once-prosperous life that had fallen on hard times.

"Starting over at what age?" Maher asked.

"I'm 62 and he was 65," Nancy Styler replied.

Trey and Nancy Styler
Trey and Nancy Styler
Nancy Styler

Their problems began when Trey Styler developed a serious neurological disorder and could no longer practice. Then he lost all their savings in an unsuccessful lawsuit.

"What kind of debt were you in at that point?" Maher asked.

"About a half a million," said Nancy Styler.

They had to move from their home and beautiful water gardens. The cultured life they'd worked so hard to create - and was seen in an HGTV special -- had slipped away.

"He was so distraught," Nancy Styler said of her husband. "He was talking suicide..."

But Nancy Styler, who had also attended medical school, decided it was her turn.

"I said, 'I can go back to work,'" she told Maher. "So last year we went back and we both got trained in Botox and laser and ... thought that we'll go to Aspen and start a spa."

In October of 2013, they answered Pfister's rental ad. When they knocked on the door she welcomed them in.

"I came upstairs and she was in a bathrobe with pearls and a glass of champagne," said Nancy Styler.

Soon, the two ladies were bonding over their love of organic gardening and the possibility of launching a business.

"She said, 'I love the idea of having a spa. ...Do it right here. The concierges from the hotels will bring their clients to you,'" said Nancy Styler.

"You must have just thought you ... hit pay dirt," Maher commented.

"Thought I died and went to heaven. And when I said that to her she said, 'It's karma, darlin'.' And I thought, 'OK. This it," she replied.

The Styler's agreed to give Nancy Pfister $12,000 up front -- three months rent.

"And did you have that $12,000 cash?" Maher asked.

"We had most of it," Nancy Styler replied. "We gave her $6,000 three days after we met her ... And so we thought this'll work out OK."

Apparently , so did Nancy Pfister. She invited the Stylers to live with her for the next month before she left for Australia. In return, Nancy Styler, a fastidious cleaner and expert seamstress, would help her get ready for the trip.

"Before we gave her the money she treated me as an equal. Once we gave her the money I became kind of a slave. 'Get my cigarettes. Get my champagne. Get this. Do that. Rub my feet. Rub my neck. ...I want you to alter 22 Brooks Brothers shirts,'" Styler explained of Pfister's requests. "I've never been treated so poorly by anyone in my life."

Asked how testy things got between Nancy Styler and Nancy Pfister, Styler replied, "She pushed me to my limits, and I didn't know I had limits."

But the Stylers had already paid Pfister $6,000, and fairly certain they were not going to get any of it back, they decided to stick it out.

"For you this was really just about, 'It's all about the house. I just gotta get this person out - of the country,'" said Maher.

"Out the door," Nancy Styler said. "I'm gonna fulfill my obligations, get her packed ... and get on with business."

She says, her one saving grace was Pfister's friend and helper, Kathy Carpenter.

"Kathy Carpenter and I started commiserating," Nancy Styler said. "About how she used people ...Kathy-- had been her personal assistant for no pay for many years."

"Did Kathy describe herself as personal assistant or friend who did favors?" Maher asked.

"I think Kathy described herself as friend who did favors. Nancy described her as a personal assistant," said Styler.

The two women became close friends and even agreed to share care of Pfister's Labradoodle, Gabe, while she was in Australia.

And so Nancy Pfister left her dog and her home in the care of Nancy and Trey Styler and said goodbye to Aspen for the winter.

In November 2013, Pfister flew to Australia, leaving her friend Kathy Carpenter in charge of collecting the rent.

"Did they ever come up with the additional $6,000?" Maher asked Carpenter.

"They did in December," she replied.

"Who did they give it to?"

"To me," Carpenter said. "I put it in the safe deposit box. And I emailed Nancy to let her know that they did pay the six."

Even though the Stylers say they had paid the rent, by January, Pfister -- from the other side of the world -- was complaining they had not and that they also owed her for utilities.

"She was on Facebook saying awful things about us. Sending us emails," Nancy Styler said. "'You're liars. You're cheats. You're taking advantage of my good nature. You owe me money for this. You owe me money for that.'"

In February 2014, before the Stylers even had a chance to launch their spa business, Nancy Pfister announced she was coming home three months early and issued Kathy Carpenter her orders.

"'Make sure that those f----ers are out of my house,'" said Carpenter.

"She was that angry?" Maher asked.

"She was angry. She wanted them out," said Carpenter.

The eviction came so suddenly, the Stylers were unable to remove thousands of dollars worth of spa equipment, which was being stored in Pfister's garage.

On Feb. 22, the same day Nancy Pfister arrived back in Aspen, the Stylers took a room at the Aspenalt Lodge. The following day, Pfister handed Kathy Carpenter a note to give to Trey Styler.

"Do you remember exactly what the note said, Kathy?" Maher asked.

"Well it was just a list," she replied. "'I want money for this. I want you to pay me this.'"

Pfister had demanded almost $14,000 for utilities and damages to her house, says Carpenter. She also threatened to get a restraining order to keep the Stylers off her property.

"She said, 'I'll hold onto their property until they pay me in full," Carpenter said in tears.

"Why does the subject of handing the note to Dr. Styler bring you to tears?" Maher asked.

"[Sniffling] Had I not handed him the note as she had asked me to, she may still be here today," she said.

POINTING FINGERS

Aspen has always been a place for dreamers. But the Stylers' dream of a fresh start was quickly dying. Three months after arriving, they were broke, homeless and locked in a bitter dispute with Nancy Pfister over property and money.

"Nancy was a tough girl. She was supremely pissed off," friend Michael Cleverly said. "I'm sure ... she was hell on wheels."

Pfister was denying the Stylers access to her home and their expensive spa equipment. But after learning Pfister had no legal leg to stand on, the Stylers marched right back up to her house, prepared to fight for their property. But they didn't have to, says Nancy Styler, because Pfister was nowhere to be found.

"The dog greets me at the door. Pees all over me," she told Maher. "And I was upset because I thought Nancy's leaving this dog alone with no way to go out to the bathroom,"

Styler says they packed up until four in the afternoon and still no Nancy Pfister. They returned the next morning to finish the move.

"It was the same as when we left," she said. "I thought that she just took off."

Nancy Styler admits she did notice a foul odor coming from Pfister's bedroom closet, but says she didn't put two and two together.

"You haven't heard from her," said Maher.

"Right," said Nancy Styler.

"You know the dog is alone."

"Right."

"And you're in her bedroom and it smells horrible,'" Maher commented to Styler. "It didn't occur to you to look in the closet?"

"I didn't have the key to the closet," she replied.

And yet, Nancy Styler was worried enough, says Kathy Carpenter, to call her three or four times that day.

"She said, 'You know, I'm just -- I'm just really concerned,'" Carpenter said. "'Some things are fishy around here.'"

Carpenter, who says she had not seen or spoken to Pfister in three days, went up to the house that Wednesday after work.

"I went into the bedroom, called her name, looked around," she recalled.

That's when, she says, she saw it. Blood. A small smear on the headboard of Pfister's bed.

"Then I was -- very concerned. I was starting to panic," Carpenter said in tears. "I walked towards the closet and it was closed and it was locked. And there was a strong odor. It wasn't right."

Carpenter says she tore out of the house, got a spare key at her own home, and then rushed back to open Pfister's closet.

"I was hit with the most atrocious, awful odor," Carpenter told Maher. "I saw that there was something wrapped. ...I screamed out her name ..."

Carpenter jumped in her car and called 911.


She immediately brought up the trouble between the Stylers and Pfister.

Kathy Carpenter to 911: ...and she had some people living there and she really pissed them off.

"Were you thinking at that moment that the Stylers may have had something to do with her murder?" Maher asked Carpenter.

"I did, yes. ...they were there in the house. They were there ... moving out on Tuesday. They were there Wednesday," she explained. "Who else but them?"


Carpenter was so hysterical, she was taken to the emergency room and sedated, while law enforcement started following up on her lead.

"5:30 on Thursday morning. I hear pounding on the hotel door. ... I looked out the door and there's all these policemen," Nancy Styler said. "I said, 'Trey, is this a dream?' And one of the policemen answered, 'It's not a dream. It's a dead body.' And I said, 'Who?' And they wouldn't answer."

"You really had no idea. Nancy Pfister's been missing for a few days. There' s -- a bad odor in the room and you can't think of anything?" Maher remarked.

"No," Nancy Styler replied. "Kathy had gone to the emergency room and I knew it had probably something to do with that and they were questioning us because we lived there."

The Stylers were separated, put in prison jumpsuits and interrogated:

Nancy Styler interrogation: She treated me as an equal. Until she got our money. And then she treated me like a slave.

"What really stuck out at me ... was she couldn't stop talking about how horrible a person that she thought Nancy Pfister was," said Deputy D.A. Andrea Bryan.

Nancy Styler interrogation: She's a liar. She's an alcoholic. And she is the most self-loathing person that I've ever met. There's not one person who said a nice thing about her.

"It appeared that there could have been enough anger there that she would actually have been the one who killed Nancy Pfister," said Bryan.

Nancy Styler interrogation: She told us we belonged in a trailer park in basalt and that we were trailer trash. I have never been disrespected by anyone in my life as much as I've been disrespected by this woman.

"With respect to Trey Styler's interview ... he really exhibited some very strong anger," said Bryan.

Investigator: Do you feel bad that she's dead?

Trey Styler: A little. ...she had screwed us up big time.

On the other hand, Trey Styler did not look capable of killing somebody, says District Attorney Chief Investigator Lisa Miller.

"He's obviously an elderly man. He's bending over. He's holding his head. He's telling us over and over how infirm he is, how weak he is," Miller said, as she watched video of Trey Styler's interrogation.

"We came to the conclusion that ... Mr. Styler could not have perpetrated this crime and moved the body by himself."

Despite their suspicions, investigators did not believe they had enough evidence to show probable cause. After 12 hours of interviews, the Stylers were released.

But then -- a huge break in the case. Just 100 yards from the motel where the Stylers were staying, a trash collector emptied out a garbage can. And purely by accident, he happened to notice items belonging to Nancy Pfister, the murdered woman he'd just seen in all the news reports.

"We find ... a vehicle registration for the Stylers' Jaguar ... in the same bag with ... personal items belonging to Nancy Pfister," said Miller.

pfisterhammer.jpg

And there it was. In there with everything else was an old hammer with Nancy Pfister's blood on it -- the murder weapon. And on one of the plastic bags was DNA that matched Trey Styler's profile.

Four days later, the Stylers were arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

"I kept thinking that I would wake up from this horrible dream, being treated like a criminal, being shackled, wearing orange, being paraded in front of the media with cameras like I was walking down the red carpet. Every piece of dignity in my life was taken away," said Nancy Styler.


But there was something nagging at Investigator Lisa Miller. That evidence drop seemed almost too good to be true. And then they found that missing key to Nancy Pfister's closet just a few yards from the Stylers' motel room.

"Did ... these ... educated professionals really make that severe of a mistake?" said Miller.

Investigators started looking at the possibility the Stylers were being framed. Or that someone else was in on it with them ... someone like Kathy Carpenter.

"Kathy Carpenter was a little bit too quick to point the finger at suspects after discovering the body," said Bryan.

"What would be her motive to kill Nancy Pfister?" Maher asked Miller.

"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," she replied.

And investigators say Carpenter's actions following the murder confirmed their suspicions.

"Just the day after the body was found, she went to Nancy Pfister's safety deposit box at Alpine Bank and took $6,000 of Nancy Pfister's money and two family rings," said Bryan.

But Pfister had given Carpenter legal access to the safe deposit box. She insists she took the money and rings for Pfister's only child.

"She said to me, you know, 'If anything ever happens to me, you make -- make sure that Juliana gets this ring,'" said Carpenter.

The investigators did not believe her. Eleven days after the Stylers were arrested, Kathy Carpenter became the third person charged with the murder of Nancy Pfister.

"They came banging on my door and they arrested me for the murder of my friend is what they said," said Carpenter.

RED FLAGS

News of a third arrest in the slaying of Nancy Pfister had all of Aspen buzzing again.

"If the murder wasn't shocking enough, then come the suspects ... I mean, first you have the doctor and his horticulturalist wife from Denver ... And then you see the bank teller," Mark Seal said. "I mean everybody was wondering, 'what went on here?'"

Kathy Carpenter says she was as shocked as anyone else. She had just bought a new outfit to wear to her friend's memorial. Instead, she sat in an orange jumpsuit alone in a jail cell.

"I could hear the music," she said. "And uh ... It was so hurtful. I just -- I cried."

Defense Attorney Greg Greer believes Kathy Carpenter was a scapegoat in an investigation so flawed, they even got the 911 call wrong.

"I have never seen anything like it," he told Maher.

According to the 911 transcript, Kathy Carpenter said she saw blood on Pfister's forehead. But prosecutors insist no one could have seen any part of the body, because it was covered with a sheet.

"In your opinion ... investigators believed this was their most important piece of evidence," Maher noted to Greer, who affirmed with a nod.

Greer was dumbfounded when he listened to the 911 call himself:

Kathy Carpenter to 911: I saw blood on her headboard... and I ... the closet was locked.

"I must have listened to that 100 times I would say," Greer told Maher. "I listened, I listened, I listened. It says 'headboard.' She said 'headboard.' She didn't say 'forehead.'"

Prosecutors admit the error, but say it's only part of the story.

"That was one statement," Andrea Bryan said. "She made numerous statements about the body -- that had raised huge red flags in our mind."

Statements like these:

Kathy Carpenter to 911: She's dead, full of blood, wrapped in a thing.

There's just one problem, says Investigator Lisa Miller.

"There is no way looking at this you can say, 'this is full of blood,' and you can definitively not say, 'This is Nancy Pfister.' How could she know her friend was dead. How could she know it was her friend," Miller said, pointing to a photo of Pfister's wrapped body.

"Nancy's been missing for a few days. There's a bad odor. The body is locked inside the closet. It's Nancy Pfister's closet," Maher said. "It seems reasonable that she would think she's dead."

"And if you phrase it like that, sure, it seems reasonable. But ... look at how the body was found. The body was covered up," said Miller.

Miller says when first responders arrived, the plastic bag covering Pfister's head was completely concealed by the sheet above it.

But Kathy Carpenter insists she did see the plastic bag wrapped around Pfister's head and it was translucent enough to give her an impression of what was inside.

"I looked down. When I saw the -- there was some hair and blood," Carpenter said in tears. "I just assumed it was -- it was Nancy. Who else?"

From left: Kathy Carpenter, left, Trey Styler, center, and Nancy Styler
From left: Kathy Carpenter, left, Trey Styler, center, and Nancy Styler

So now they had three people in jail: Kathy Carpenter, Nancy Styler and Trey Styler. They are all there because a judge determined there was enough probable cause to make the arrests. But prosecutors still had to build a case against three different people that would hold up in court.

"What was your working theory?" Maher asked Bryan.

"The theory was that they were all involved in some aspect of the murder whether it was the planning of -- murder or the ultimate cleanup," she replied.

The deputy district attorney believes they'd bonded over their resentment of Pfister. But they still only had physical evidence against one of them, Trey Styler -- that DNA they'd found on one of the bags containing the murder weapon.

"Is there any DNA found of Nancy Styler?" Maher asked Bryan.

"No," she replied.

"But you still think that she's involved ... even though there's no physical evidence?"

"Absolutely," said Bryan.

"Nancy ruled the roost, if you will," Miller said. "William Styler didn't make any moves without Nancy."

And investigators believed she was the one who most wanted Nancy Pfister dead.

"Investigators believe you had the motive. That it was you and Nancy Pfister who really had the ugly, tense relationship," Maher noted to Nancy Styler.

"I didn't have a great relationship with her, but what would that have done for me to kill her?" she replied.

"Did you hear Mrs. Styler say threatening or menacing things about Nancy Pfister?" Maher asked Carpenter.

"You know, in the very beginning ... she made some threats," she replied. "'I'm just this angry at her. I -- I could just-- just kill her.'"

"Did you say that you wanted to kill Nancy Pfister?" Maher asked Nancy Styler.

"I said at one point in time that I'd like to kill her. Yes," she replied. "I did say that. Absolutely."

"It doesn't look good," said Maher.

"It doesn't look good, but if every person who said that ... was taken at their word, how many times have you said, 'I'd like to kill her?'" Styler reasoned.

But District Attorney Sherry Caloia says, someone did kill Nancy Pfister.

"After someone says that ... people don't ordinarily end up dead," she said.

And Bryan says, even more curious, "Here's Nancy Pfister who had asked to get a restraining order ... and had told ... them that they cannot come to the house. And now they seem totally unconcerned about whether or not she finds them there. Well, the reasonable conclusion is because they know that she is dead."

And what about all those phone calls Nancy Styler made to Kathy Carpenter before the body was found?

"Why did you keep calling her?" Maher asked.

"Because she was gonna be picking up the dog and it was important for me that she came and got that dog and that she knew what was going on," Nancy Styler replied.

"While there could be an innocent explanation for that communication, the explanation can also be that they're talking about the body and what is going to be done with the body in the closet and how it's going to get out of the closet," said Bryan.

A good story, but where's the proof? Styler's attorney, Garth McCarty, wants to know.

"...speculation and conjecture were all they ever had against Nancy Styler," he said.

Investigators were convinced they had the right three people in jail, and in time, they would eventually turn on each other:

Interrogator to Kathy Carpenter: Everything is crashing down on you. ... I have them in jail and you have to worry greatly what they tell me.

Interrogator to Trey Styler: So what you're telling me is your wife was probably in on it then. ...Is that true, did she have anything to do with Nancy's death?

"Did you have anything to do with the murder of Nancy Pfister?" Maher asked Nancy Styler.

"Nothing whatsoever," she replied.

"At no point did you think ... was there any way that Trey could have been responsible for this?"

"Never even crossed my mind," Styler told Maher. "I thought for sure in my little courtroom in my mind that Kathy had done this."

"Did you kill Nancy Pfister?" Maher asked Kathy Carpenter.

"No," she replied.

"Did you take a hammer, hit your friend in the head, wrap her up in plastic and leave her to die in a closet?" Maher pressed.

"No," said Carpenter.

As the alpine snows began to melt and winter gave way to spring, three people -- Kathy Carpenter, Trey Styler and Nancy Styler -- watched the changing of seasons from behind bars waiting, as was all of Aspen, for their day in court.

"There was ... anticipation of the trial when everything would come out. People were eager to hear exactly what happened and why," Seal explained. "And then all of a sudden -- another bombshell."

"And I was blown away. I was blown away," said Nancy Styler.

THE BOMBSHELL

It promised to be one of the most sensational murder trials in Aspen history.

"Did you ever worry that you might be convicted?" Maureen Maher asked Nancy Styler.

"No," she replied. "'Cause I'm totally innocent."

Kathy Carpenter wasn't nearly as hopeful.

"If they don't find the ... truth out, and they send me to prison, I can't live," she said in tears

Then, a shocking development.

It was one of those moments that rarely happen in real life. The courtroom is packed and everyone is desperate to know what will happen next. Then, a bombshell. Three months after getting hauled off to jail for murder, Trey Styler tells the judge he knows who did it.

Who killed Nancy Pfister? He did. And he says he did it alone.

Both women were released from jail. Trey Styler had agreed to tell all the details of the crime in exchange for a 20-year sentence and his wife's unconditional freedom. Nancy Styler can never be charged in connection with Nancy Pfister's death.

"If he said, ' I'll take the hit. I'll throw myself on the sword,' would you let him do it if --" Maher asked Nancy Styler.

"No," she interrupted.

"-- you had been involved?" Maher continued.

"If I had done it? Nancy Styler asked.

"Or been involved?" said Maher.

"No. Absolutely not. I couldn't have lived with myself," she replied.

According to Trey Styler, he left his wife sleeping at the motel and went to Nancy Pfister's house to try to reason with her. The door was unlocked. He entered and went upstairs to her bedroom

"He said it bothered him that our whole lives were falling apart and she was there sleeping peacefully. And he snapped," said Nancy Styler.

Trey Styler confession: Suddenly it occurred to me that I could rid myself of this problem once and for all by killing her.

Trey Styler says after retrieving a garbage bag and a hammer from the garage, he returned to the bedroom and began hitting Nancy Pfister in the head -- again and again -- until she was dead.

"And then he puts the bag over her head after he kills her?" Maher asked Investigator Lisa Miller.

"Right. That was to keep the bleeding to a minimum," she said.

The feeble looking man in a wheelchair says he then pulled Nancy Pfister's body onto a sheet on the floor and tied her up with an extension cord.

"...and then just by inches at a time and by squatting and pulling ... he moved her deceased body ... inside the owner's closet," said Miller.

Trey Styler says he then threw the murder weapon and items belonging to Nancy Pfister into a bag, put it in his trunk and eventually, tossed it into that trash can.

Trey Styler confession: Probably not a smart move but I can't claim to have been acting smart.

Lisa Miller admits, Trey Styler told a believable story. The problem is she doesn't believe it.

"You don't believe that confession?" Maher asked Miller.

"No, not fully. I do not," she replied.

"You believe Nancy Styler had something to do with that murder?"

"I do," said Miller.

"Do you believe Kathy Carpenter had something to do with that murder?" Maher asked.

"Kathy Carpenter saw that body before that body had been wrapped and packaged as it was. Kathy Carpenter had something to do with the murder or the cleanup afterwards," Miller replied.

Andrea Bryan agrees, but says they had no choice but to take the deal -- that they simply did not have enough evidence against the two women to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

"We can't create evidence against them that's just not there," she explained. "I saw this as really one of our only opportunities -- to get some closure."

But Nancy Styler's attorney says the prosecution is just trying to save face after throwing two innocent women in jail for over three months.

"This is the worse investigation I have ever seen," defense attorney Garth McCarty said. "Somebody needs to be held accountable ... somebody needs to lose their job over this."

From attorneys and investigators to family and friends, many people in this town are adamant that there are still unanswered questions -- including Michael Cleverly, who wants to know how Trey Styler could have committed this crime on his own.

"He and I are the same age. I think I'm probably in a little better shape than he is. And if I have to pick out -- up an 80 pound bag of cement ... it's a big adventure for me," said Cleverly.

"It's hard for people to believe that you as his wife ... in no way helped him murder her, wrap the body up, drag it into a closet. And then clean up that place meticulously where there's only just a little bit of blood left on the headboard," Maher commented to Nancy Styler. "And you want people to believe you had no idea that that happened."

"No knowledge," she replied. "No knowledge of that at all."

"Absolutely nothing?" Maher asked.

"NOTHING," said Styler.

The charges may have been dropped, but both women say the prosecution's continued insistence that they were somehow involved in Nancy Pfister's murder has convicted them in the court of public opinion.

"What does the name Nancy Styler mean now?" Maher asked.

"My reputation was shining. And now I'm guilty by matrimony," she replied.

Carpenter lost her job at the bank and the employee housing that went with it. She now lives with her mother in another town. Unlike Nancy Styler, Carpenter still faces the threat of prosecution should more evidence be found.

"It just really hurts me to think that people might think that I was capable of something like this. There's no way. There's no way," she said in tears.

The snow is once again falling on Buttermilk Mountain and the murder of Nancy Pfister has finally faded from the headlines, but friends still mourn.

"You just lose one of the pillars of joy when you lose a character like Nancy," said friend Tim Mooney.

Nancy Pfister with her daughter, Juliana
Nancy Pfister with her daughter, Juliana

And a daughter is still grieving.

"She was the person I loved the most in the whole universe. She is the person I love most," Juliana Pfister said. "But I bet if she wasn't my mom, she would have been one of my best friends."

"Aspen endures, as it always does," Seal said. "But Nancy Pfister will not soon be forgotten."

EPILOGUE

" I want to do whatever I can for Nancy..." said Trey Styler.

guilt-by-matrimony.gif

Last April, after 13 months behind bars, Trey Styler sat down for an interview with Daleen Berry, who was writing a book with his wife, "Guilt by Matrimony" in an effort to clear her name.

" I did snap. God I wish it had never happened," he told Berry.

He talked about the day he killed Nancy Pfister.

"I did not intend to kill her. The thought never went through my mind, 'Oh I think I'm gonna kill her.' The first thought I can remember having is I did kill her ... past tense," he said.

Trey Styler insisted he acted alone.

"One thing I know beyond doubt is that Nancy not only had no involvement in it, she had no knowledge of it," he continued.

After Trey Styler went to prison, Nancy Styler changed her name, moved to another state and filed for divorce.

"I've been trying to hang on and not do something definitive," said Trey Styler.

"Suicide?" Berry asked.

"Yeah, suicide," he replied.

Four months after this interview, Trey Styler hanged himself in his prison cell.