By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A retired physician pleaded guilty on Friday to killing a socialite in the tony ski resort town of Aspen, Colorado, and authorities dropped murder charges against his wife and a third suspect, prosecutors said.
William Styler, 66, confessed that he murdered Nancy Pfister in a dispute over rent money, Pitkin County District Attorney Sherry Caloia said.
Pfister, 57, was found beaten to death with a hammer in her Aspen-area home in February. The murder shocked residents of Aspen, a chic getaway for the wealthy, including many Hollywood celebrities.
Murder charges against Styler’s wife, Nancy, and a local banker, Kathy Carpenter, were dropped after William Styler confessed that he acted alone, Caloia said.
Caloia said Styler pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and in exchange her office agreed to a 20-year prison sentence for the retired anesthesiologist.
"Due to his age and medical condition, we believe this will be a life sentence for him," she said.
The Stylers moved from the Denver area to the mountain community last year, and were renting Pfister's home while she traveled overseas. Pfister returned to Colorado and got into a dispute with the Stylers over money she said the couple owed her, authorities said.
Caloia said there were "nasty exchanges" between Pfister and the Stylers that led detectives to suspect the couple in the slaying.
On Monday, William Styler told investigators that he wanted to resolve the case and clear his wife and Carpenter in the killing, Caloia said.
After reviewing the evidence – including William Styler's confession – Caloia said there was insufficient proof to move forward with a prosecution of the two women.
Pfister was the daughter of Art and Betty Pfister, a prominent couple who co-founded the Buttermilk ski area in the 1950s. Buttermilk is one of the four mountains that comprise the Aspen/Snowmass ski resort complex.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Will Dunham)