Nancy Pfister was well-known in her Aspen community. As a wealthy ski resort heiress, she partied with the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, rubbed shoulders with Jack Nicholson, and even enjoyed a short-lived engagement to Michael Douglas. But in February 2014, 57-year-old Pfister's life was cut abruptly short when she was found beaten to death in her own closet. Kathy Davenport, Pfister's close friend who had stumbled upon the scene, reported the incident to the police—and was the first to turn investigators onto Pfister's tenants, the Stylers.
Once renowned botanists, Trey and Nancy Styler had seen their life crumble in the wake of Trey's diagnosis with a debilitating neurological disease. His resignation from his position as chief of staff at a Denver hospital, combined with two expensive lawsuits, depleted the Stylers' bank accounts and sense of hope. Still, his wife stuck by his side, and the pair managed to find an affordable chalet in the Colorado ski town of Buttermilk. Feeling more confident, they began developing a new business venture—a medical spa in the mountains.
Enter Nancy Pfister, their larger-than-life landlord and potential investor (the latter of which never came to fruition). The Stylers began renting her home while she vacationed in Australia, though the distance did not shield them from her erratic behaviors. Pfister partied hard and drank excessively. She made outrageous accusations and demands—demands that, according to Nancy Styler, she and her husband generously met. But tensions reached an all-time high when the Stylers, unhappy that Pfister hadn't made necessary home repairs, refused to pay rent. Cowed by the threat of legal action, the couple moved out in February 2014.
Pfister was murdered shortly thereafter, and the crime scene left behind—a concealed blood stain on the mattress, the body’s hiding place—indicated that it was a two-person job. Meanwhile, the Stylers had already decamped to a motel, where a hammer and the key to Pfister’s closet were found nearby. Such incriminating evidence not only led to Nancy and Trey’s arrest, but corroborated the suspicion that Kathy Davenport was their accomplice. She, too, was slapped with murder charges.
Both women were exonerated when Trey, in a last-minute confession, took full blame for the crime. But while the court concluded that Nancy Styler was uninvolved, the public wasn’t so convinced: How could an extremely ill man in his late 60s manage such an attack? Nancy's collection of $1 million in life insurance after her husband's suicide was another strike against her claims of innocence. In 2016, Pfister’s daughter filed a wrongful-death suit against Nancy Styler, though the women eventually reached a settlement.
Today, some people still believe that Trey Styler couldn't have slayed Pfister without help. As for his wife, she aims to dispel any lingering doubts with her true crime book, Guilt by Matrimony. Released to much controversy in 2015, the book tells Nancy’s side of the story, recounting her tumultuous stay at Pfister’s chalet, the biased homicide investigation, and her own arrest. The following excerpt is Nancy’s take on the day Kathy Davenport found Pfister’s wrapped and beaten body...But is this the testimony of a wrongfully accused woman, or of a killer trying to cover her tracks?
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Featured photo of Nancy Styler (left) and Nancy Pfister (right): Crime Watch Daily / YouTube