ASPEN, Colo. --The murder of Aspen heiress Nancy Pfister might never have been solved but for the eagle eye of a sanitation worker who spotted what looked like household trash in a city receptacle, according to a lawyer involved in the case.
When the worker opened the bag, he found a bloody hammer and several prescription bottles with Nancy Pfister's name and address on them, said attorney Greg Greer, the lawyer for one of the initial suspects in the case, Kathy Carpenter.
"If that trash guy hadn't have been so diligent," Greer said, "this evidence would have ended up in the landfill."
The DNA of one of Pfister's tenants, William Trey Styler III, was all over the hammer and the pill bottles, prosecutors said.
Styler, along with his wife, Nancy, and Carpenter, the murdered woman's trusted confidante of seven years who found her body, were arrested on first degree murder charges in the gruesome killing of Pfister, 57, one of Aspen's most well-known residents.
On Monday, William Styler told investigators that he acted alone, and he pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the Feb. 24 killing. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
After his confession, charges against Styler's wife and Carpenter were dropped.
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The district attorney said there had been intense disagreements with Pfister over whether Styler and his wife had been paying the $4,000 monthly rent. Pfister cut short a trip to Australia, she said in a Facebook post, to deal with renters who were not paying up.
Pfister was known to be a feisty, independent woman who didn't put up with shenanigans, and sources close to the Carpenter family told ABC News that the Stylers had been sneaking around on her computer.
Styler hit Pfister in the head with a hammer while she slept and hid her in a closet at her Buttermilk home, prosecutors said.
Pfister was wrapped in white and green trash bags and the sheets from her bed, ABC News has learned. Her bed was clean except for one bloody hand print on the headboard.
Greer told reporters Friday that a worker at the hotel where the Stylers were staying noticed the missing key to the closet where Pfister's body was hidden. It was lying near the door of their room, he said.
There were only two keys to that closet. Carpenter had one, but the other one was unaccounted for until the hotel worker found it.
It was Styler's wife who called Carpenter to tell her that Pfister had disappeared. Nancy Styler even suggested that Pfister may have killed herself, saying that no one was taking care of the dog and there was some kind of foul odor coming from the house.
A misunderstanding led to Carpenter being arrested after she called 911 when she found her drinking buddy's body lying in the closet, where prosecutors said it had been for at least two days. Pfister's sleigh bed was all made up, but without sheets, and there was no sign of blood anywhere except for the headboard.
"There's blood on the headboard," Carpenter later wheezed and cried to the 911 dispatcher.
Investigators thought she said "There's blood on her forehead," and they eventually arrested her because no one but the killer would have known about that.
"Kathy Carpenter was arrested for making a 911 call," Greer said. "On Hunter S. Thompson's refrigerator, there's a note. It says 'Never call 911.'"
Although the charges were dropped against Carpenter, Ninth Judicial District prosecutor Sherry Caloia said Carpenter was not off the hook.
She told reporters this week that the case against Carpenter was still open and Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said investigators are still looking at what her involvement might have been.
When asked about the fact that the case was still open against his client, Greer said, "We'll see."