Styler’s wife collected $1 million insurance payment after suicide
November 16, 2015
The ex-wife of the man who killed prominent Aspen resident Nancy Pfister pocketed $1 million after he took his life.
Nancy Masson was the beneficiary of a $1 million life insurance policy taken out by her husband William "Trey" Styler, who was convicted of murdering Pfister last year.
Masson, who had used her husband's surname until divorcing him earlier this year, filed for personal bankruptcy in Massachusetts on July 10. On Aug. 6, Arrowhead Correctional Center authorities found her estranged husband, serving a 20-year prison sentence for second-degree murder, dead from an apparent hanging. He was 67.
The seven-figure sum Masson collected was shielded by the bankruptcy.
"It was a very old (insurance) policy," said attorney Robert Simonian of Fall River, Massachusetts, noting certain policies will pay beneficiaries, even in the event of suicide by a policyholder, after five or 10 years pass.
"There was an exemption for it," he said.
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Masson filed for bankruptcy because of a "lack of income," Simonian said. Her bankruptcy petition lists $26,110 in assets and $91,982 in liabilities. Her debts mainly derive from credit-card charges, loans and collection agencies. Her assets include a 2002 Jaguar X-Type with 70,000 miles, valued at $3,600. Masson, who now lives in Massachusetts, also owns a kayak worth $300 and $15,000 worth of skin-care products and machines, the bankruptcy says.
As part of an agreement with the court, Masson will pay $150,000 to the bankruptcy trustee, according to court documents and her attorney. The trustee would then distribute those funds to Masson's creditors, Simonian said.
"It may be very well that she has overpaid," he said. "But that's just a safe number in case (debtors') claims come in higher than we anticipated."
Masson's financial picture also could change depending on the success of her new book, which is set for release Tuesday, Nov. 17. Masson is using the Styler surname for a book she coauthored with writer/journalist Daleen Berry, "Guilt by Matrimony: A Memoir of Love, Madness, and the Murder of Nancy Pfister."
The bankruptcy refers to the book deal as one of Masson's potential assets but assigns it no value.
"The book deal may have some value, it may not," Simonian said.
Along with her husband, Masson 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. A third suspect, Kathy Carpenter, who handled Pfister's personal affairs, also was charged. Authorities later cleared Masson and Carpenter after William Styler confessed that he acted alone.
Masson has claimed the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office botched the investigation. Her bankruptcy even notes she might have a potential claim for libel and slander against the county. It says she consulted with her court-appointed attorney in the homicide case, Garth McCarty, about filing a complaint. McCarty was in trial Monday and could not be reached.
"She was falsely arrested, charged with first-degree murder, which is a capital offense in Colorado, and sent to two different county jails for a combined 107 days," according to press material promoting the book.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, whose office teamed with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said he has read about 110 pages of the book. He said he still believe she had a role in the homicide, "but she's untouchable now." That's because prosecutors dismissed the homicide charges against her with prejudice, meaning they can't be brought forth again.
DiSalvo also said he recalled William Styler telling investigators he had a life-insurance policy that covered him for suicide.
"We didn't believe him," DiSalvo said. "I had never heard of a policy paying for death by your own hand."
William Styler confessed June 20, 2014, to acting alone when he killed Pfister. Styler and his wife had been tenants of Pfister's, which led to a disagreement about rent. After Pfister returned to Aspen from Australia to evict the couple, William Styler, a former anesthesiologist on the Front Range, committed the murder. Carpenter also became a suspect, in part, because of what authorities said were inconsistent accounts she gave to investigators.
Pfister was 57 and had one daughter. Her father, Art, was a co-founder of Buttermilk ski area. Her mother, Betty, was a member of Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, during World War II.