D.A. : No theft charges against former Nancy Pfister murder suspect
July 16, 2014
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia announced Tuesday that her office will not be filing theft charges against Katherine Carpenter, a former suspect in the murder of Aspen native Nancy Pfister.
The decision essentially brings the entire Pfister case to a close, unless some new information comes to light, Caloia and Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said.
Carpenter, 56, was arrested on March 14 and charged with first-degree murder in connection with Pfister's late February death. However, that charge and two others against her were dismissed on June 20, the day that William F. Styler, a former Front Range anesthesiologist, appeared in Pitkin County District Court and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
Styler, 66, told authorities that he acted alone in murdering Pfister on Feb. 24. He received a 20-year prison sentence through a plea agreement with the District Attorney's Office. Murder charges against his wife, Nancy Styler, were dropped on June 18. The Stylers were both arrested on March 3.
In the week following William Styler's sentencing, District Attorney Sherry Caloia said that her office was considering theft charges against Carpenter, a former Aspen bank teller. Authorities were looking into her removal of $6,000 cash and two items of jewelry from Pfister's bank safety deposit box on Feb. 27, the day after she reported to authorities the discovery of Pfister's body in a closet at Pfister's West Buttermilk Road residence.
Carpenter's attorneys, Kathleen Lord, of Denver, and Greg Greer, of Glenwood Springs, have said that Carpenter had permission to access Pfister's safety deposit box. Pfister and Carpenter were longtime friends, and Carpenter assisted Pfister with personal business, such as collecting money from tenants when Pfister went on extended vacations.
Neither Greer nor Lord returned phone messages or emails from The Aspen Times on Tuesday.
"The Ninth Judicial District Attorney's Office will not be filing theft charges against Katherine Carpenter at this time," a Tuesday afternoon statement from Caloia's office said. "There is insufficient evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. This decision may be reviewed in the future should the District Attorney's Office be presented with additional evidence."
The Stylers rented Pfister's house for a few months last winter. Authorities have said that William Styler and Pfister were embroiled in a financial dispute following Pfister's return from Australia in February. Pfister posted comments on her Facebook page alleging that the Stylers were not paying rent. Those statements have been disputed by defense attorneys involved with the case.
Affidavits in support of arrest warrants for the Stylers and Carpenter — documents which would explain why authorities believed that all three suspects were involved in the murder — remain under a court-order seal.
DiSalvo said his investigators provided information about the potential theft charges and input regarding the chances of a successful prosecution to the District Attorney's Office in the weeks following William Styler's conviction and sentencing.
DiSalvo said he is comfortable with Caloia's decision.
"It was a decision she made based on whether she could successfully prosecute this case in court," he said. "I wasn't directly involved in it, but I support my district attorney on this."
Carpenter spent three months in custody on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to murder and accessory to murder, which might have had some bearing on the decision not to pursue the theft charge, the sheriff said.
Minutes after Styler's sentencing on June 20, DiSalvo remarked that the investigation into Carpenter's possible involvement in the homicide and other issues involving Pfister would remain open indefinitely.
"Since then, conversations happen and things change," DiSalvo said. "I guess now my statement would be that this is over. I guess I can say that now. Mr. Styler has taken a plea and is in jail. His wife can't be prosecuted. Now we've just dropped the charge on Kathy, and the final loose end has been tied up. I think now I can close the case."
In relation to the potential theft charges against Carpenter, Caloia said her office never sought an arrest warrant from a judge.
"The whole thing about a theft case is determining whether someone is taking things from another person for the purpose of permanently depriving them," she said. "There was evidence that came from Ms. Carpenter that she did not intend to permanently deprive."
According to Caloia, Carpenter and her attorneys contended that she intended to give the money and items from the safety deposit box to Juliana Pfister, Nancy Pfister's daughter.
"With that evidence, I realized it would be very hard for us to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt," Caloia said.
Carpenter is now a resident of Carbondale, according to recent court filings. Attempts to reach her for comment on Tuesday were unsuccessful.