— -- The mysterious murder case of a prominent Aspen, Colorado, native came to abrupt halt Friday when one of three people who had been held on murder charges pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
William “Trey” Styler III, 66, who has been in a wheelchair since his arrest on March 3, held his cuffed hands in his lap as he listened to the charges read against him relating to the Feb. 24 bludgeoning death of Buttermilk Ski Area heiress Nancy Pfister, 57.
“I am guilty, your honor,” he told Pitkin County Judge James Boyd.
Styler, a former anesthesiologist from Denver who had rented Pfister's home, first confessed to district attorney investigators June 16. He earlier had been charged with first-degree murder.
The district attorney said there had been intense disagreements with Pfister over whether Styler and his wife had been paying the $4,000 monthly rent fee. Pfister cut short a trip to Australia, she said in a Facebook post, to deal with renters who were not paying up.
Styler hit Pfister in the head with a hammer while she slept and hid her in closet at her Buttermilk home, prosecutors said.
Pfister was wrapped in white and green trash bags and the sheets from her bed, ABC News has learned. Her bed was clean except for one bloody hand print on the headboard.
After Styler was wheeled out of the courtroom, first-degree murder charges against a second suspect, Kathy Carpenter, 56, were dismissed. Carpenter, who entered the courtroom in street clothes, left the building with her mother. Ninth Judicial District prosecutor Sherry Caloia said Carpenter was not off the hook. She told reporters after the hearing that the case against Carpenter was still open.
Not so for the case against Trey Styler’s wife, Nancy Styler, 62, who had also been charged with first-degree murder and other crimes. Earlier this week, Nancy Styler was released and, unlike Carpenter, the case against her was closed. She will never be charged for Pfister’s murder.
Nancy Pfister’s sister, Suzanne Pfister, and the victim's daughter, Juliana Pfister, were in the courtroom and visibly shaken.
“It’s second degree murder. I don’t understand that,” said Juliana Pfister when she was asked to approach the bench. “It upsets me. There are such things as an eye for an eye.”
Another sister, Christina Pfister, listened to the hearing by phone and addressed the court with dismay about the fact that Styler would be held in a medical unit,
“I saw Mr. Styler walking around just fine before he was arrested," she said, "and I am not interested in him being comfortable.”
Carpenter’s attorneys also were frustrated because their client, a friend of Nancy Pfister’s for seven years, spent 96 days in jail without bail.
In an hour-long news conference after the hearing, Greg Greer, an attorney for Carpenter, told reporters that Carpenter was arrested based on a word investigators thought they heard her say in the 911 call.
Said Greer, “She’s unemployed. She’s homeless now because she called 911.”
When asked about the fact that the case was still open, he said, “We’ll see."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.