Aubrey Dallas/The Aspen Times/AP
August 07, 2015 06:00 PM

The retired Denver anesthesiologist who pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder after bludgeoning to death an Aspen socialite has been found dead in his jail cell at the Arrowhead Correctional Center.

William Styler, 67, was found hanging in his cell around 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning, the Aspen Times reports. Styler did not leave a note.

“Trey is now at peace after being tortured for such a long time,” Styler’s wife Nancy wrote in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “He was a successful, brilliant doctor, incredible and loving husband and father, and a gentle man. I hope people will remember him for the man he once was before his physical and mental illness took over his life.”

Styler was serving a 20-year-sentence for the February 2014 murder of 57-year-old Nancy Pfister, a well known socialite who once dated actor Michael Douglas and counted Jack Nicholson, Woody Harrelson and Goldie Hawn among her friends and whose parents co-founded Colorado’s Buttermilk ski area.

Styler and his wife rented Pfister’s home while she was in Australia but were soon evicted over a money and rent dispute. She was killed shortly after she returned from Australia.

Styler admitted he hit Pfister three or four times in the skull with a hammer while she was sleeping and put her body in trash bags underneath clothing in her bedroom closet.

Styler and his wife Nancy were originally charged with first-degree murder because Styler suffered from a degenerative nerve condition and police didn t believe he acted alone. Nancy spent three months in jail on suspicion of assisting in the slaying before charges were dropped against her. Aspen resident Kathy Carpenter was also charged, but counts against her were eventually dropped as well.

Styler, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on June 20, 2014, began his sentence in the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center but was later transferred to Arrowhead, a facility for low-risk and disabled prisoners.

Nancy’s publicist, Michael Wright of Garson & Wright Public Relations Inc., says Styler had a history of suicidal thoughts.

“He was a gentleman who was very suicidal,” he tells PEOPLE. “He had contemplated suicide in the past. He was stricken with the neurological disorder Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and he started losing control of his arms and legs, muscle tone and his mind started weakening on him. From being a prominent anesthesiologist to being extremely ill he did become suicidal.”

Wright says the couple divorced and Nancy moved to the east coast to work as an aesthetician but they kept in contact over the phone. “She spoke to him a couple of weeks ago. It was just a normal conversation.”

Nancy just finished a book, Guilty by Matrimony about her life with her husband, the murder, and the “theories on what really happened.” The book is scheduled to be released in November.

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