After Chief Public Defender Tina Fang chided Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo in open court on Monday, the county’s top cop canceled a planned media conference and issued a statement saying his office no longer will release information in connection with the Nancy Pfister homicide case.
Fang represents William F. Styler III, 65, who, with his wife, Nancy C. Styler, 62, was formally charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder on Monday in Pitkin County District Court. The couple lived in Pfister’s West Buttermilk Road house in the fall and part of the winter while Pfister, 57, was vacationing. Her body was discovered in a closet at the house on Feb. 26, just four days after she returned from Australia.
A third suspect, Katherine M. Carpenter, 56, was arrested Friday and appeared in court Monday afternoon. She signed acknowledgement of a judicial protection order that bars her from any contact with three of Pfister’s relatives. The Alpine Bank employee had assisted Pfister with renting out the house, according to Pfister’s Facebook page. Carpenter faces the same first-degree murder and conspiracy counts.
Fang spoke of the difficulties in obtaining discovery information being gathered by investigators and turned over to the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. She also suggested that DiSalvo has not been running an objective investigation, given that he knew Pfister as a friend and made statements during a March 3 news conference following the Stylers’ arrest about how the investigation had exacted a personal toll on him and his department.
“We need for him to know the rules,” Fang said of DiSalvo. She also was critical of a local lawyer who has been helping the Pfister family, questioning the extent of his participation.
DiSalvo has said that Pfister was a regular visitor to the Sheriff’s Office when DiSalvo’s predecessor, Bob Braudis, was in office. They sometimes would have bull sessions together.
Last week, DiSalvo was taking temporary care of Pfister’s pet Labradoodle, Gabe.
“I loved Nancy — she was a good person,” DiSalvo said at the March 3 news gathering.
However, since the investigation into Pfister’s death began in late February, DiSalvo, his top officials in the Sheriff’s Office and the deputies involved in the investigation have made a point of not providing any specific details about the investigation or the circumstances surrounding Pfister’s murder. The same goes for the District Attorney’s Office, which has sought successfully to seal all search- and arrest-warrant information in the case.
The self-imposed gag order, according to a Sheriff’s Office statement, is “an effort to preserve the prosecution in this case,” DiSalvo’s statement says. “All future communications from the department will take the form of a written press release or informational update on PitkinEmergency.org.”
The statement goes on to say that the department will continue to abide by the Colorado Rules for Professional Conduct with regard to releasing information to the media — the same rules the District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office recognizes. There was some back and forth in court on Monday between the Stylers’ defense attorneys and prosecutors regarding the need to adhere to the rules.
“The case remains active and under investigation, and investigators are still developing leads and interviewing witnesses,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “Therefore, there will be no information released regarding this arrest.” The arrest to which the department referred to was Carpenter’s.
Though the news gathering was canceled, District Attorney Sherry Caloia fielded a few questions from a handful of reporters in the basement of the courthouse after Carpenter’s hearing. She also would not speak to any details about Pfister’s murder.
Most of the reporters represented out-of-town media and have not witnessed local authorities’ daily refusal to discuss the case.
For instance, Caloia declined to say whether anyone has confessed to the murder. She would not comment on its supposed brutality. And she said it was “way too early to go there” when asked about a possible change of venue.
Secrecy by authorities during a first-degree murder investigation is not so unusual, she said, although she added that it may be odd to seal an arrest affidavit, which states the reasons why an individual should be taken into custody.
But homicides in Aspen are also a rarity, Caloia pointed out. The last murder investigation in Pitkin County prior to Pfister’s followed a shooting death in October 2001.
“It doesn’t happen in Aspen,” she said. “It just doesn’t happen.”