New True-Crime Book to be Featured on National TV Show
Mum’s the word for another week, I think, before I can say which TV show will air a segment about my next book, Guilt by Matrimony. I can say this: the host is not only handsome, but he asked great questions. The show promises to be exciting and I can’t wait until you see it. (Meanwhile, you can still preorder your copy of this true-crime book and have it before the November 17 publication date.)
My trip to Colorado in late September was a whirlwind, as most of them are. Autumn in Aspen was lovely—except technically, I never made it to Aspen. I was a few miles away in Snowmass, since most of the interviews took place at the Viceroy, a lovely resort where you can ski-in, ski-out. There was no time to sightsee, unless stopping off to grab a few photos in Georgetown, a little mining town along I-70, counts. (Although I practically inhaled a five-star omelet at the Snowbridge Inn. Their chef, and the service throughout, is fabulous!)
My photos from the trip are largely missing. I only got a few, thanks to my cell phone taking a dip in the loo inside Denver Airport. (No, I did not flush it. Instinctively, I retrieved it. May I just say, “Yuck!!!”) In an instant, I became one of those silly (or not so much, now that I’ve joined their ranks) women who carry their cell phones in their back jeans pocket. Whether from the desire to have it on their person or simply because they don’t want to risk scratching it, I couldn’t say. In my case, it was the latter. I’d been on the phone with tech support for days, trying to figure out a months-long issue with intermittent, empty text messages. The good folks at Apple said it was my carrier, nTelos, who said it was my hardware. Apple finally saved the day, sending me a spanking new iPhone. (Speaking of which, you are far better off to spend $99 on AppleCare, which gives you unlimited tech support and insures your iPhone, than on any cell phone insurance I’ve ever found. Apple’s customer support is second to none!) After transferring all the data from my old phone to my new, voilà, all was well!
Well, almost. The empty text bubbles transferred, too. Making me realize it was my carrier. (This problem has yet to be resolved, since it means spending even more time with tech support.) At that point, I was out of time. I packed up my old iPhone and the case and made my usual middle-of-the-night, mad dash to the airport. Once there, I barely had enough time to make the plane, and in the process, I left the iPhone’s waterproof case behind, on my front seat. A very expensive mistake, I would later learn.
Have you ever tried taking pictures from your AirBook Mac? That little laptop has a great app, Photo Booth, from which I took the only pictures of glowing aspens I was able to get while there. (Except they weren’t glowing very much, being so early in the season.) Of course, the laptop is a little unwieldy, trying to balance it while simultaneously smiling for a selfie without dropping said electronic device. I don’t recommend it. Instead, keep your case on your phone, so you won’t need to put it in your back pocket, and then you’ll have it for all the pictures you want to take. (And all the calls you need to make, so the TV crew and your agent don’t think you were abducted by aliens during the drive from Denver to Snowmass.)
Unlike most visitors to Colorado this time of year, the seasonal colors weren’t the highlight of my trip. Meeting Nancy was. Nancy Styler is everything she seemed to be over the phone—and much more. Kind, far too kind—and forgiving of everyone who turned against her during her and her late husband’s short and tumultuous time in Aspen. I found her, as did many other people I interviewed, generous to a fault. She is also the tiniest thing, about a size 2, and a few inches shorter than me. Lovely on the outside, it is her inner beauty that catches you off guard and makes you think, “Can she possibly be this real?” She is, for sure.
For instance, I forgot to wear my compression stockings on my flight, so my legs, thanks to the recent surgery, were quite swollen. I couldn’t even see my ankles. The first thing Nancy did was insist that I let her check for edema. Then she made me sit, and propped my legs up on pillows so they were higher than my heart. Nancy then massaged them, pushing the fluid out. Throughout the next two days, she reminded me to take it easy and keep my legs up, whenever I could.
That is this reporter’s objective takeaway, and I was relieved to learn that the impressions I gleaned during our telephone interviews had not been wrong. In fact, after meeting Nancy the first time, I was so taken with her that for the next two days, we had a kind of 48-hour slumber party, where we laughed and talked and cried and laughed some more.
Aside from everything else, Nancy Styler has a killer sense of humor. Yes, I just used that word, on purpose. The woman who was wrongfully charged with murdering Nancy Pfister, of Buttermilk Mountain fame, is guilty of killing in one sense: she can look at all that’s happened and still laugh at life. She can even laugh about some of the times during her wrongful 100-day incarceration. But it’s her ability to laugh now, after the fact, after losing everything she held dear, including her husband, Dr. Trey Styler, that I find remarkable.
I know now that laughter has kept Nancy going strong, alive and hopeful. Like so many of us who, without it, would have been toppled by life’s injustices.
We were laughing a few minutes after we met Saturday in the lobby of the Viceroy, and we were still laughing when we parted company Monday morning in Denver. That’s when Nancy told me what happened the night before, while I was sleeping. I was completely out of it, not having slept much the entire trip. Sleeping so deeply I was snoring.
What she did, after I was asleep, was make sure Trey would forever remain in Colorado, near their son’s childhood home. She didn’t mean to, it kind of just happened that way. When she flew from Boston to Aspen, her carry-on luggage included three bags of Trey’s remains, since his last wishes were for her to scatter some of them there. Before Nancy left, it was too painful for her to scoop them from the mortuary container into the bags, so her sister did it. But that Sunday night, while I was asleep and Nancy was in the bathroom, quietly trying to find something in her purse, what she found instead were Trey’s ashes, all over the place.
They were on her cosmetics, her wallet, her cell phone, and anything else inside her purse. Trey’s ashes had escaped their plastic bag, fallen out, and gotten on everything. Not just a few ashes, either—an entire bag. So Nancy took her pocketbook, dumped it upside down on the counter, and tried “to clean up Trey.” She was laughing so hard, she told me the next morning, she was surprised she didn’t wake me.
As we both were, so hard my ribs hurt. I’m sure hers did, too. She told me how “most of Trey” had gone down the drain.
“Oh, Nancy,” I said, “Trey would be so happy, knowing he will be in Colorado forever, compliments of the public waterworks.” If tears weren’t running down our cheeks by then, I’d be surprised.
Time was short, as we had one last meeting with the TV producers, so Nancy ran an errand. While she was gone and as I did my face, I felt grit beneath my fingers from where my cosmetics sat on the countertop. I looked at my hand, seeing small flecks of ash on my fingertips. I knew what it was: Trey. I scooped everything up, packed it away in my suitcase, and later told Nancy that I hoped she didn’t care.
“I’m taking a little bit of Trey home with me, to West Virginia,” I said, laughing. “I’m sure he’ll love it there.”
* * * *
My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.
For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.
Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!
Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”