Bernhardt "Bernie" Tiede II (born August 2, 1958) is an American mortician and convicted murderer. Tiede confessed to shooting wealthy 81-year-old widow, Marjorie "Marge" Nugent, in Carthage, Texas on November 19, 1996. The murder is the subject of the 2011 film Bernie, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black as Tiede.
Family and early life
Bernhardt Tiede II is the son of Bernhardt Tiede (1912–1973), a native of Olgenow, Russia (previously Ukraine) of German descent who had immigrated with his family to the United States in 1926. Bernhardt Tiede (Sr.) had served as a professor of music and choral director at Our Lady of the Lake College (now Our Lady of the Lake University) in San Antonio, Texas (1946–1948), at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas (1948–1957), at Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas (1957–1968), and then at McMurry College (now McMurry University) in Abilene, Texas, where he served as director of the McMurry Chanters, the position he held until his death in 1973. In addition to his work as a university professor, the elder Tiede also served as church music director and as a vocal performer. Bernie Tiede's mother was Bernhardt Tiede Sr.'s first wife, Lela Mae Jester (1933–1961). They were married in 1957 and Bernie was born in the next year, but Bernie's mother died in an automobile accident when he was two years old. In 1963 his father married Clara Kathryn Wiley (b. 1938), who became Bernie's stepmother. His father died in Abilene, Texas when Bernie was fifteen. Bernie Tiede graduated from Cooper High School (Abilene, Texas) in 1976.
According to the Amarillo Globe-News (October 26, 1998), Tiede—a former funeral director and mortician—was 38 years old in November 1996 when he shot Nugent in the back four times with a rifle. Tiede then placed Nugent's body in a freezer used to store food at her Carthage home, and then sealed the freezer with duct tape. Nugent's only son, Amarillo pathologist Rod Nugent, became concerned when he and his children, Nugent's grandchildren, were unable to get in touch with Nugent. Rod Nugent contacted family friends and the police when they could not get in touch with Nugent. The Sheriff's office of Panola County and Nugent began to search for Nugent. Captain David Jeter met with Tiede and asked about Nugent's whereabouts. Tiede lied and said that she was in Ohio and had suffered a heart attack. The Sheriff's office could not confirm this story, so they questioned Tiede again about Nugent's whereabouts. Tiede informed the Sheriff's office that Nugent was in Scott and White in Temple under an assumed name. The Sheriff's office again could not confirm. Nugent and his daughter were named Nugent's legal guardians and they travelled from Amarillo to Panola County where they declared Nugent a missing person. After breaking into Nugent's residence, Nugent and his daughter found his mother's body in the freezer, wrapped in a white sheet.
Tiede was taken in for questioning and he first told police that he had received a strange phone call stating that if he wanted to see Nugent again alive he would not tell anyone she was missing. Tiede said that he had received a phone call every week, and that they were ransoming Nugent. After investigators informed Tiede that they did not believe this story, Tiede admitted to the murder to police in August 1997. In Tiede's handwritten confession he claims he thought about different ways of murdering Nugent for months. He thought about hitting her with a bat but he did not want her to suffer.  Tiede cleans up the body, places Nugent in a freezer and seals the freezer with some duct tape. Afterwards, Tiede calls the Longview Bank and Trust cancels a meeting scheduled for that day, and steals Nugent's credit card and checkbook and takes people out for pizza that evening.  The next day Tiede forges himself a $20,000 check from Nugent's personal checkbook.  He admitted he had given gifts to several male friends in Carthage using Nugent's money. A jury sentenced Tiede to life in prison for Nugent's murder. Tiede appealed his sentence and the appellate courts ruled that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to have found premeditation. Tiede filed a post conviction writ of habeas corpus, in which Tiede alleges that his constitutional rights were violated in the first trial because of "newly discovered evidence". He alleges in the writ that the 81-year-old Nugent was controlling and emotionally abusive toward him, driving him to murder her in a fit of rage. This statement contradicts testimony Tiede gave at the first trial in which Tiede stated under oath that Nugent was not mean – possessive, but never mean. The Texas Criminal Courts of Appeal is currently considering the writ.
Tiede met Nugent in March 1990, at her husband's funeral. He pursued a relationship with her, and the two eventually became inseparable. In 1991, Nugent altered her will and disinherited her son, leaving her entire $5 million estate to Tiede. According to the deceased's estranged son, Dr. Rod Nugent, Tiede alienated Nugent from her family, friends and the business associates of her late husband. Dr. Nugent told the Globe-News: "It appears this Bernie Tiede kind of systematically estranged my mother from all these people one at a time ... At some point they became angry with my mother."
The Globe-News reported: "By 1993, Tiede had left the funeral home to work full-time as Nugent's business manager and travel companion. The next several years were a whirlwind of travel as the pair took cruises and exotic trips all over the world. Tiede also began taking Nugent's riches. He began giving gifts to several male friends in Carthage using Nugent's money. He started scholarships for students at Panola College, pledged money to the First United Methodist building campaign and did a fund-raising drive for the Boy Scouts. Despite his secret life, he continued to spend time with Marjorie Nugent - until November 16, 1996. The couple was preparing to leave the house for a meeting with the trust officers at the Longview Bank and Trust to discuss the discrepancies and missing assets in the Nugent Family Trust that day when Tiede said he picked up a .22 rifle, which he relocated to a more convenient location earlier that morning, and shot her.
When interviewed, Panola County, Texas District Attorney Danny "Buck" Davidson said that the town of Carthage was "split up" in regards to their opinion of Tiede. Davidson told the Longview News-Journal: "People remember him (Tiede) as being real nice and doing nice things, and they'd like my office to go real easy on him. And then, there's a group that wants no mercy."
Imprisonment and Release
Tiede had been, until May 2014, serving a life sentence. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice described Tiede as 6'2", 255 lbs., with gray hair and gray eyes. However, the district attorney and a judge allowed him to be released from his life sentence that month on $10,000 bail (as a condition of his release, he must live in Austin, Texas, with filmmaker Richard Linklater, who made the film), after the district attorney stipulated that Tiede had been in an abusive relationship with Nugent, and had been allegedly sexually assaulted as a child. Nugent's family heard about the release through media reports. Her granddaughter expressed shock that the release was granted, suggesting that Linklater's film influenced the legal system.
The Nugent family created a Website to honor Marjorie's memory, posting photos of her and articles relating to her murder.
- Bernie, a 2011 film
- Hollandsworth, Skip (January 1998). "Midnight in the Garden of East Texas". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
- "Man convicted of murdering companion, stuffing body in freezer". Amarillo Globe News. 10 February 1999. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
- Probably the town identified on older maps as Olgenowka, just east of Rozyszcze, in the region of Volhynia, Ukraine, which was part of the Russian Empire until 1921 when it became part of the Soviet Union. There was a colony of German settlers in this area; cf. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls. Census Place: Pendleton, Umatilla, Oregon; Roll: T627_3380; Page: 61A; Enumeration District: 30-37. See also the reference below to Tiede in the passenger list for the "Columbus," which gives his place of birth as "olgenow" (sic). An article in the Abilene News-Reporter gives his place of birth as Ukraine: Abilene Reporter-News "'Chanters' Director Here Through Fate" (November 23, 1969, p. 12-C).
- Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Cf. also "'Chanters' Director Here Through Fate". Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene). November 23, 1969., p. 12-C
- "'Chanters' Director Here Through Fate". Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene). November 23, 1969., p. 12-C
- "Former McM Music Prof, Bernhardt Tiede, Dies". Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene). November 23, 1973.
- Dallas Morning News, “State Deaths” (November 11, 1961, p. 5).
- Gregg County marriage records, book 35, page 229; cf. Abilene Reporter-News, "Former McM Music Prof, Bernhardt Tiede, Dies" (November 23, 1973, p. 16-A). Clara Kathryn Wiley is listed with her family in the United States Census for 1940 (see information above), Rusk, Cherokee County, Texas, sheet number 46a, and she is shown in the Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997 (Texas: Texas Department of State Health Services), p. 2161. This shows her birth date as 19 November 1938, and her parents’ names as Cass Wilner Wiley and Mable Glynn Allison.
- Abilene Reporter-News for 26 April 2012; cf. http://www.reporternews.com/news/2012/apr/26/mean-bernie-film-features-cooper-grads-unlikely/
- "Man will stand trial for widow's death". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Longview). Associated Press. February 1, 1999. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- "‘Bernie’ victim’s family wants killer back in prison".
- "‘Bernie’ victim’s family wants killer back in prison".
- "Bernie Tiede appeal hinges on ‘new’ abuse claim".
- Bohonan, Sunny (October 26, 1998). "Trial begins for man accused in death". Amarillo Globe-News. Associated Press. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- Duke, Beth (February 12, 1999). "Man gets life sentence for killing Nugent". Amarillo Globe-News. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- "Bernhardt Tiede, II". Texas Prison Inmates: Telford Unit. Texas Tribune. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- "Writ of Habeas Corpus Hearing (1)".
- "Ex-Mortician Whose Killing of Widow Inspired Movie Freed Early". NBC News. Associated Press. May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- Nicholson, Eric (May 7, 2014). "As 'Bernie' Goes Free, Victim's Granddaughter Says Hollywood Has Wrought an Injustice". Unfair Park (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Observer). Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- "Marjorie Nugent".
- Justice for Bernie Tiede - Official Bernie Tiede Blog - Deleted
- Bernie Tiede's petition for clemency
- Rhodes, Joe (April 12, 2012). "How My Aunt Marge Ended Up in the Deep Freeze...". New York Times.
- Hollandsworth, Skip (January 1998). "Midnight in the Garden of East Texas". Texas Monthly.