Peter B. Nardi works as a custodian at the Bent County Correctional Facility making 66 cents per day. William F. Styler III has been sitting in a state inmate processing facility near Denver for the past 72 days, waiting to learn the location of his next home.
Nardi, 52, and Styler, 66, represent Pitkin County’s highest-profile convictions of late, with the former having started a 15-years-to-life sentence on July 7 for the April 2013 sexual assault of his ex-girlfriend (along with five other charges) and the latter facing more than 19 years behind bars following his second-degree murder plea on June 20 in connection with the February death of Aspen native Nancy Pfister.
For Nardi, a former Aspen bartender, the Bent County prison is a far cry from what is considered the more comfortable confines of the Pitkin County Jail, which housed him, off and on, for several weeks of the 12 months between his arrest and conviction by a 12-person jury.
The Bent County facility is owned by the private prison company Corrections Corp. of America, which contracts with the state to house inmates. According to state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson, it’s a medium-security prison with a population of 1,416 and sits in a remote area of the Front Range east of Pueblo.
“It’s in the plains,” she said. “There’s just not much out there. It’s more or less in the middle of nowhere. There’s farming nearby; there’s a lot of flat, open space.”
Before arriving in Bent County on Aug. 6, Nardi had a brief stopover at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Canon City. It houses long-term inmates but also can play the role of a temporary intake facility where inmates are evaluated and processed before being sent elsewhere.
The Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, where Styler is currently housed, is more of a full-time intake facility, although a few long-term inmates likely reside there, Jacobson said. The maximum population of the center is 575.
“Offenders are given a complete diagnostic evaluation including medical, dental, mental-health assessment and personal-needs assessments as well as academic and vocational testing, initial classification and a custody-level recommendation,” the department’s website says.
Nardi’s estimated eligibility date for parole is Feb. 1, 2026. However, state law mandates that a sexual-assault conviction be connected to what’s known as an “indeterminate sentence,” meaning that Nardi cannot be released unless he admits his guilt and participates in an intensive rehabilitation program. Nardi, however, has always maintained his innocence and even took the stand in his own defense at the conclusion of his two-week trial, to no avail.
His criminal-defense attorney, John Van Ness, of Carbondale, said he has not spoken with Nardi since the July sentencing hearing. He said they have exchanged legal paperwork but nothing else. A public defender will take on Nardi’s appeal effort, Van Ness said.
By confessing to the crime under a plea agreement with the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Styler negotiated amnesty for his wife, Nancy Styler, as well as a recommendation from prosecutors to the Department of Corrections that he be sent to a prison with a sizable health care facility. Styler sat in a wheelchair during all of his court appearances earlier this year and is said to have serious health issues, including scant lower-body strength.
Aspen felony prosecutor Andrea Bryan said her office’s recommendation was just that, a recommendation, and the Corrections Department is not required to abide by it.
Jacobson said she does not know why Styler remains at the Denver intake facility. Usually, inmates are processed within 60 days, but the length of stay can be longer, she said.
“We have taken questions about whether he will be sent to a medical facility,” she said. “Well, all of our facilities have clinics. We also have two infirmaries, but those are at (the Denver and Canon City intake facilities). They are for inmates who go there for surgery and then recuperate or some that are acutely ill. So those are more like little hospitals.”
The department also has a hospice program in Canon City and a long-term medical-needs unit in Denver, she said.
Styler is still being evaluated by the department and therefore his future home has yet to be decided, Jacobson said. His first parole eligibility date is about 14 years away, on Dec. 25, 2028. His mandatory release date is Dec. 25, 2033 — should he live to that point, he will be 85 years old.