Bernhardt "Bernie" Tiede II (born August 2, 1958) is an American mortician and convicted murderer. Tiede confessed to the shooting of a 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 (1933–1960). 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.
Tiede met Nugent in March 1990, at her husband's funeral that Tiede helped with while assistant director at Hawthorn Funeral Home. 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. By 1993, Nugent had convinced Bernie to leave his job to work for her full time as her business manager and travel companion.
In November of 1996 Tiede killed Nugent by shooting her in the back four times with a .22 rifle. He then placed Nugent's body in a freezer used to store food at her Carthage home and sealed the freezer with duct tape. According to the Amarillo Globe-News, Nugent's estranged son, Amarillo pathologist Rod Nugent, began looking into her whereabouts when he was unable to get in touch with Marjorie. 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 Marjorie's residence, Rod and his daughter found his mother's body in the freezer, wrapped in a white sheet.
Tiede was taken in for questioning, and he admitted to Nugent's murder to police in August of 1997. Tiede stated that after the murder, he cleaned the body and placed Nugent in a freezer. After this, Tiede admits, he had given gifts to several male friends in Carthage using Nugent's money.
A jury sentenced Tiede to 50 years 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 alleged 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 and verbally abusive toward him, driving him to murder her in a dissociative state brought on by years of sexual abuse from his uncle. The Texas Criminal Courts of Appeal has approved the writ.
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."
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. However, District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson and a visiting Judge Diane DeVasto of Tyler, Texas, allowed him to be released from his life sentence that month on $10,000 bail, after the appeals attorney for the case alleged that Tiede had been sexually assaulted as a child and that Tiede shot Nugent while in a brief dissociative episode brought on by his abusive relationship with her. It's also been suggested that Tiede's handwritten confession (a major factor is the murder being considered first-degree) was heavily influenced by threats of leaking private video tapes of Tiede. Nugent's family heard about the release through media reports. Her granddaughter expressed shock that the release was granted and suggested that Linklater's film may have influenced the legal system.
The Nugent family created a website to honor Nugent's memory, posting photos of her and articles relating to her murder.
- 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’s 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/
- Bohonan, Sunny (October 26, 1998). "Trial begins for man accused in death". Amarillo Globe-News. Associated Press. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- "Man will stand trial for widow's death". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Longview). Associated Press. February 1, 1999. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/bernie-tiedes-freedom-was-more-than-a-feel-good-se/nfydR/=. Missing or empty
- Duke, Beth (February 12, 1999). "Man gets life sentence for killing Nugent". Amarillo Globe-News. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
- "Ex-Mortician Whose Killing of Widow Inspired Movie Freed Early". NBC News. Associated Press. May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
- "Writ of Habeas Corpus Hearing (1)".
- 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".
- 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.
- Nugent, Marjorie (February 2, 2016). "Memorial page for Marjorie Nugent". FindAGrave.