Filing: Masson-Styler entitled to life insurance payment
Nancy Masson-Styler introduced court papers Thursday insisting she is entitled to life insurance proceeds from her ex-husband’s death, accompanied by a sworn affidavit saying “I did not commit or participate in any way in the murder of Nancy Pfister.”
The filing was Masson-Styler’s first response to allegations made by Juliana Pfister, the daughter of Nancy Pfister, about the February 2014 slaying.
It also comes after Juliana Pfister filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Masson-Styler in January in Pitkin County District Court. And last week, Pfister filed what’s called an adversary action in Masson-Styler’s personal bankruptcy case in Massachusetts, putting the Pitkin case on hold.
Pfister’s adversary action seeks a bankruptcy court-ordered injunction to stop Masson-Styler from collecting proceeds from her ex-husband’s $1 million life insurance policy, which listed her as the sole beneficiary. The goal of Pfister’s action is to show Masson-Styler should be held civilly responsible for the death of Nancy Pfister.
Pfister’s adversary action, filed by Boston attorney Anne White, accuses Masson-Styler of “intentionally, willfully and maliciously” murdering Nancy Pfister, deceiving the bankruptcy court and helping plot the suicide of her ex-husband so she could reap the insurance windfall.
Last August, William Styler hanged himself at the Arrowhead Correctional Center, where he was serving a 20-year sentence for the second-degree murder of Nancy Pfister. A month earlier, Masson-Styler had filed for bankruptcy protection, showing monthly income of $1,317 and monthly expenses of $1,301, along with $26,110 in assets and $91,982 in liabilities.
Masson-Styler’s filing, made by Boston lawyer Adam Ruttenberg, argues that only $150,000 in life insurance proceeds are property of the bankruptcy estate.
Masson-Styler collected the remaining $850,000, which is not part of the bankruptcy estate, Ruttenberg contended.
The bankruptcy court approved the insurance policy dispersions Nov. 16.
“In this adversary proceeding, (Juliana Pfister) does not — and cannot — claim any interest in the insurance proceeds sought to be restrained,” Ruttenberg wrote. “Significantly, the insurance proceeds belong to (Masson-Styler), and are not property of the estate.”
The filing also argues that Pfister has no evidence showing that Masson-Styler, who originally was charged with her then-husband and Kathy Carpenter in the murder, was involved.
“(Pfister) must establish on the basis of admissable evidence that it is likely that (Masson-Styler) will be found liable for willful and malicious conduct causing the murder of Nancy Pfister,” Ruttenberg wrote. “There is no basis for the court to reach such a conclusion.”
The filing also includes a 185-page transcript of William Styler’s confession, which was made to authorities June 17, 2014.
“Moreover, William Styler has confessed that he murdered Nancy Pfister by himself and without (Masson-Styler’s) knowledge or assistance,” Ruttenberg argued, adding that “(Masson-Styler) steadfastly has denied any involvement in the murder and has submitted an affidavit in this case confirming that she was not involved.”
Masson-Styler’s affidavit says, “I was not aware that my husband had killed Nancy Pfister until he confessed to the crime in June 2014.”
Ruttenberg also suggests that Pfister’s wrongful-death suit willfully violated an automatic stay in the bankruptcy case that precluded creditors from taking outside court action.
Nancy Pfister was a well-known Aspen native whose father co-founded the Buttermilk ski area and whose mother was a member of the Women Air Service Pilots in World War II.
Along with her then-husband, Masson-Styler originally was a suspect in the murder of Pfister, who was beaten to death with a hammer while she was asleep at her West Buttermilk home. Authorities discovered her body in a bedroom closet at her home Feb. 26, 2014. She was 57.
Pfister had kicked the couple out of her home after they failed to pay rent,
Authorities later dropped charges against Masson-Styler and Carpenter, after William Styler confessed that he acted alone.
According to Styler’s confession transcript, he told investigators “I don’t have to protect (his then wife and Carpenter) because there’s nothing to protect them from. They, in fact, had nothing to do with it, were completely unaware of it, to the best of my knowledge.”
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