Bernie Tiede

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Bernie Tiede
Bernhardt Tiede

(1958-08-02) August 2, 1958 (age 60)
OccupationAssistant funeral director
Criminal statusIncarcerated at Barry Telford Unit as of 2016
Parent(s)Bernhardt Tiede and Lela Mae Jester
Conviction(s)First-degree murder
Criminal penalty99 years or life

Bernhardt "Bernie" Tiede II (/ˈtd/; 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.[1][2] The murder is the subject of the 2011 film Bernie, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black as Tiede.

Family and early life[edit]

Bernhardt Tiede II is the son of Bernhardt Tiede (1912–1973), a native of Olgenow, Russia (previously Ukraine)[3] of German descent who had immigrated with his family to the United States in 1926.[4] 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.[5] 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).[6] They were married in 1957, and Bernie was born in the next year. Bernie's mother died in an automobile accident when he was two years old.[7] In 1963 his father married Clara Kathryn Wiley (b. 1938),[8] who became Bernie's stepmother. His father died in Abilene, Texas when Bernie was fifteen.[6] Bernie Tiede graduated from Cooper High School (Abilene, Texas) in 1976.[9]

Marjorie Nugent[edit]

Tiede met Nugent in March 1990 at her husband's funeral, with which Tiede helped while assistant director at Hawthorn Funeral Home. The two eventually became inseparable. In 1991, Nugent altered her will and disinherited her son, leaving her entire $10 million estate to Tiede.[10] By 1993, Bernie left his job to work for her full time as her business manager and travel companion.[11]

In November 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. According to the Amarillo Globe-News, Nugent's estranged son, Amarillo pathologist Rod Nugent, traveled from Amarillo to Panola County nine months after her death, where he declared Nugent a missing person. After entering Marjorie's residence, Rod and his daughter found his mother's body in the freezer, wrapped in a white sheet.[12]

Tiede was taken in for questioning, and he admitted to Nugent's murder to police in August 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 friends in Carthage using Nugent's money, which she had previously given him power of attorney to use.

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 alleged 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.[13] The Texas Criminal Courts of Appeal approved the writ.

According to the deceased's estranged son, Rod Nugent, Tiede alienated Nugent from her family, friends and the business associates of her late husband. 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."[10]

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."[10]

Tiede was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. Rod Nugent filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tiede, claiming Tiede had embezzled more than $3 million from Marjorie Nugent.[14]

Imprisonment and release[edit]

Shortly after entering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in 1999 Tiede was attacked by fellow inmates.[15] During his imprisonment, Bernie was described by a prison official as "a model prisoner," [16] teaching health classes and participating in the prison's choir. He 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, Jodi Cole, discovered that Tiede had been sexually abused as a child for multiple years.[17] Cole alleged that Tiede shot Nugent while in a brief dissociative episode brought on by his abusive relationship with her,[18] a theory backed by forensic psychiatrist Richard Pesikoff.[19]

Mr. Tiede’s ability to repress and compartmentalize the abusive events from childhood and adolescence was ultimately overwhelmed by the repeated and extensive psychological abuse he suffered from Mrs. Nugent. The end result, his loss of control over his emotions and behavior, is evidenced in his final actions toward Mrs. Nugent.

—Richard Pesikoff [20]

It's also been suggested that Tiede's handwritten confession (a major factor in the murder being considered first-degree) was heavily influenced by threats of leaking private video tapes of Tiede. When presented with the new evidence, Davidson agreed that had he known this information in the original trial he would have sought a lighter sentence.[21] Nugent's family heard about the release through media reports. Her granddaughter expressed shock that the release was granted and claimed that Richard Linklater's 2011 film Bernie had influenced the legal system.[22] The Nugent family created a website to honor Nugent's memory, posting photos of her and articles relating to her murder.[23]

Between the time of his release in 2014 and his resentencing in April 2016 Tiede resided in Austin, Texas, in filmmaker Richard Linklater's garage apartment, which was a condition of his release.[24]

The resentencing trial began on April 6, 2016. During the resentencing trial, Marjorie's granddaughter Shanna Nugent spoke directly to Bernie saying "You are nothing to me."[25] Shanna and Rod Nugent both asserted that Marjorie was in fact a kind woman on good terms with her family (unlike the film's portrayal) whom Tiede conned to spend her fortune without her knowledge.[26]

This differs greatly from other witnesses' testimonies as Gregg County Commissioner Darryl Primo testified that in a conversation he had with Marjorie between 1991 and 1996 that she spoke well of Bernie's spending, stating, "I’ll spend every dime [of my money] before I leave it to my family." Additionally Merrell Rhodes, the victim's sister, spoke of her feelings toward Marjorie saying "I was always afraid of her...I never forgot that she was my sister... I always loved her as a sister, actually, even when she did ugly things, and she did."[27] Merrel's son, Joe Rhodes, attested to the movie's accurate portrayal and mentioned several acts of his aunt's abuse toward him in the New York Times article "How My Aunt Marge Ended Up in the Deep Freeze".[28]

Despite this, On April 22, 2016, a jury of 10 women and two men deliberated and issued a new sentence of 99 years or life for Tiede. After three weeks of testimony, the jurors deliberated for just over four hours.[29]

As of 2016 Tiede resides in the Telford Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.[30] A week after his resentencing, his lawyers filed an appeal to the court's decision.[31] In June 2016, the 1997 theft charge against Tiede was dropped.[32] In August 2017, a Texas appeals court upheld the 99-year prison sentence.

Tiede was the subject of the 48 Hours episode "The Mortician, the Murder, the Movie" outlining his crime as well as his brief re-entry to society and resentencing.[33]


  1. ^ Hollandsworth, Skip (January 1998). "Midnight in the Garden of East Texas". Texas Monthly. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Man convicted of murdering companion, stuffing body in freezer". Amarillo Globe News. 10 February 1999. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  3. ^ Probably the town identified on older maps as Olgenowka, just east of Rozhyshche, 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. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 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).
  4. ^ New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Cf. also "'Chanters' Director Here Through Fate". Abilene Reporter-News. Abilene. November 23, 1969., p. 12-C
  5. ^ "'Chanters' Director Here Through Fate". Abilene Reporter-News. Abilene. November 23, 1969., p. 12-C
  6. ^ a b "Former McM Music Prof, Bernhardt Tiede, Dies". Abilene Reporter-News. Abilene. November 23, 1973.
  7. ^ Dallas Morning News, "State Deaths" (November 11, 1961, p. 5).
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Abilene Reporter-News for 26 April 2012; cf.
  10. ^ a b c Bohonan, Sunny (October 26, 1998). "Trial begins for man accused in death". Amarillo Globe-News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Man will stand trial for widow's death". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Longview. Associated Press. February 1, 1999. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  13. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ Duke, Beth (February 12, 1999). "Man gets life sentence for killing Nugent". Amarillo Globe-News. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Ex-Mortician Whose Killing of Widow Inspired Movie Freed Early". NBC News. Associated Press. May 6, 2014. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  18. ^ "Writ of Habeas Corpus Hearing (1)".
  19. ^
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ "Marjorie Nugent".
  24. ^ Chang, Justin (June 25, 2014). "Richard Linklater on Living With Bernie Tiede". Variety. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  25. ^ [2]
  26. ^ Silver, Jonathan (March 31, 2016). "New Sentencing Trial for Bernie Starts Wednesday". Texas Tribune. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  27. ^ Osaidacz, Alex (April 20, 2016). "Bernie Tiede trial: Victim's sister says she was afraid of Marjorie". Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  28. ^ Rhodes, Joe (April 12, 2012). "How My Aunt Marge Ended Up in the Deep Freeze . ." New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  29. ^ Grissom, Brandi. "East Texas widow killer Bernie Tiede, subject of hit movie, gets 99 years to life in re-trial". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on 28 May 2016.
  30. ^ "TIEDE,BERNHARDT II." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on December 9, 2016.
  31. ^ "Bernie's lawyer's file appeal to court's decision". KXXV. Waco, TX. April 29, 2016. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  32. ^ Peterson, Matt (June 16, 2016). "Bernie Tiede won't face charge that he stole millions from East Texas widow he killed". Dallas Morning News. Dallas, TX. Retrieved October 30, 2016.
  33. ^ Vansant, Peter (October 1, 2016). "The Mortician, The Murder, The Movie". 48 Hours. Retrieved October 30, 2016.


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