Sheriff: Suit wrong about axe in Pfister murder |

Sheriff: Suit wrong about axe in Pfister murder

Nancy and William Styler

As brutal as the murder of Nancy Pfister was, a wrongful-death lawsuit paints a picture of a crime scene that the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office insists is erroneous.

Juliana Pfister’s suit against Nancy Masson-Styler, who was cleared of homicide charges in the death of Nancy Pfister, Juliana Pfister’s mother, alleges that the cause of the plaintiff’s mother’s death was “later attributed to severe blunt force trauma to her head from repeated bludgeoning from a hammer and from an ax plunged into her chest.”

An autopsy report issued in April 2014 showed Pfister died of blunt force trauma to the head, and her body wasn’t discovered until Feb. 26, 2014 — 36 hours after her death. She was 57.

The suit’s ax reference was news to Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and others who have closely followed the murder.

“The autopsy reported that Nancy was killed by two blows to the head — that’s it,” he said, noting a hammer was the only weapon used.

DiSalvo instructed Undersheriff Ron Ryan and investigator Brad Gibson to research how the suit could have drawn such a conclusion. The two learned that Wikipedia described Pfister’s murder in similar fashion to the lawsuit’s description.

“The medical examiner noted several lacerations to the face, almost as if she had been bludgeoned with something incredibly sharp,” according to Wikipedia. “Pfister also had a huge gash in her chest, which the medical examiner believed was from an ax, plunged into her torso, which caused her to bleed to death. The wounds to Nancy Pfister’s face were later determined to have been caused by someone beating her with a hammer.”

DiSalvo said he was troubled by the suit’s ax reference.

“The attorneys are quoting Wikipedia, for some strange reason,” he said, noting they could have read the police reports on the death.

Aspen law firms Praxidice PC and Bovino & Associates filed the suit Jan. 27 in Pitkin County District Court.

One of the plaintiff’s attorneys, David Bovino, said he did not know how the ax reference made it to the suit. Peter Thomas of Praxidice did not return several messages seeking explanation.

Masson-Styler’s then-husband, William Styler, confessed to acting alone in the murder on June 12, 2014. Authorities cleared Masson-Styler and a third suspect, Kathy Carpenter.

Masson-Styler was incarcerated for 107 days before she was set free, while District Judge James Boyd sentenced Styler to a 20-year prison sentence for second-degree murder.

In August, Styler hanged himself in his cell at Arrowhead Correctional Center, where he was serving his punishment.

The suit claims that Masson-Styler, who divorced William Styler last year, was involved in the murder and profited from it by publishing a book and collecting a $1 million life-insurance payment on her husband’s death.

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