A former Denver anesthesiologist pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of a prominent Aspen woman and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

William F. Styler, 66, entered his plea after accepting an agreement with Pitkin County prosecutors, The Aspen Times reported (http://tinyurl.com/plezync ).

Prosecutors said Styler killed Nancy Pfister, 57, on Feb. 24, striking her with a hammer while she slept. Pfister's parents co-founded the Buttermilk ski area.

Pfister had rented her home to Styler and his wife while she vacationed in Australia. She was killed shortly after she returned to Aspen.

On a Facebook posting before her death, Pfister said that the Stylers were not paying rent. Defense attorneys denied that claim.

But District Attorney Sherry Caloia told reporters Friday that Styler and Pfister had argued before the murder. Caloia also suggested that the motive may have been a financial dispute.

Styler, his wife, Nancy Styler, and Pfister's personal assistant, Katherine Carpenter, originally were charged with first-degree murder.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against Nancy Styler on Tuesday and against Carpenter on Friday. Caloia said Friday that William Styler had told authorities he acted alone in the slaying.

At sentencing, Pfister's relatives asked Chief District Judge James Boyd to impose a maximum sentence of 32 years for the second-degree murder charge. Prosecutors recommended a 20-year term in a prison with medical facilities, and Boyd agreed.

Styler had appeared in court in a wheelchair for an unspecified health condition.

"We do believe that this is a good and just resolution to these cases and hope that Nancy Pfister's family can find peace in knowing what happened," said a statement issued by Caloia's office.

Citing Styler's age and health, it added, "We believe this will be a life sentence for him."


Information from: The Aspen Times, http://www.aspentimes.com/