Nancy Pfister’s homicide investigation likely will result in hundreds of hours of overtime for Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Undersheriff Ron Ryan said Thursday.
Ryan said a ballpark tally of the manpower cost of the investigation to date is unavailable because the current pay period for Sheriff’s Office employees doesn’t end until Saturday. But he did say the overtime costs would be “fairly substantial.”
“With something like this, we have much less freedom in trying to find ways to save, because if we make a mistake, that could be at the expense of a thorough and complete investigation,” he said. “We’re not willing to sacrifice a few extra dollars at that expense.”
The probe into the death of Pfister, who was 57, began with a 911 call on the evening of Feb. 26. Authorities have been mum on the details surrounding her cause of death, but discussion among local residents close to the family consistently paint a picture of a violent death. If such reports are true, her body was found inside a closet at her West Buttermilk Road residence.
Though a man and wife from the Front Range — William and Nancy Styler — were arrested at Basalt’s Aspenalt Lodge on Monday shortly after 5 p.m. and face first-degree murder charges in connection with her death, the case is still open.
That means all records associated with the investigation, such as affidavits in support of search warrants and preliminary autopsy findings, will remain sealed for the time being, Ryan said.
He spoke with The Aspen Times on Thursday about the impact of the investigation on the Sheriff’s Office and how the department deals with cases of such magnitude. But in keeping with the tight-lipped atmosphere surrounding the department over the past week, he talked only in general terms, carefully avoiding the release of any details about the case itself.
At least 20 of the 27 Sheriff’s Office employees who are involved in patrol operations and investigations participated in the investigation, Ryan said, counting himself and also Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. In all, the department has 58 workers on its payroll.
“We were rolling for 24 hours a day for those first few days,” Ryan said. “Even when we weren’t going 24 hours a day, it was very extended workdays for many of our crew.”
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office was not the only agency involved in the probe of Pfister’s death. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation sent several of its agents, and numerous other law enforcement entities assisted, including the Aspen and Basalt police departments, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the 9th Judicial District, as well as others.
Ryan said the county won’t have to pay those agencies for their help. The bureau is a state-created, taxpayer-supported entity with a mission of assisting local law enforcement. As for the Roaring Fork Valley city governments and law departments that came on board, he said the help never reached the threshold at which Pitkin County will be required to reimburse them for their time and efforts. Neighboring police agencies typically have reciprocation agreements with regard to assistance, whether formally or informally.
There has been considerable strain on the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, as DiSalvo has noted. It’s the first homicide investigation in the county since October 2001. And given the wide scope of the investigation and the number of agencies involved, the local courthouse, which also houses the Aspen Police Department, was cramped. Temporary barriers to public access that were set up on the first floor two days into the investigation were removed following the Stylers’ arrests.
As DiSalvo said during Monday’s news conference one hour after the Stylers were booked into the Pitkin County Jail, “We’re conducting a 21st-century investigation in a 19th-century building.” The courthouse on East Main Street was completed in early 1891.
Public safety around the county did not suffer because of the investigation, Ryan said. Some administrative tasks were pushed to the back burner. For DiSalvo and Ryan, it was a matter of prioritizing duties.
Ryan said he could not describe the CBI’s exact role. The bureau’s agents have left the county, but they will be returning from time to time to assist with the case, he said.
The atmosphere at the courthouse is “more normal” than a week ago but not back to normal, he said. On Thursday, which marked the start of the second week of the investigation, the Sheriff’s Office “redefined the incident,” he said.
“We have less people here right now that are committed 100 percent to this particular incident,” he said.
He said none of the department’s deputies had any previous experience with a homicide investigation. Ryan and DiSalvo, though, were involved with the last one in Pitkin County, when a man named Andrew Kachik was accused and convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Thomasville resident Vincent Thomas. In that incident, the arrest occurred less than an hour after the crime.
“We do have a greener, younger staff in the Sheriff’s Office now,” Ryan said. “There’s a huge learning curve on these types of things. It is amazing to watch these new deputies take on these challenges and grow and do the great job that they did do.
“We talked about how when the bell rings, we have to be prepared for it. The bell did ring, and everybody stepped up.”
“We were rolling for 24 hours a day for those first few days.”
Undersheriff, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office