Bernhardt ‘Bernie’ Tiede II is an American convicted murderer who was a mortician by profession. He admitted to killing a wealthy 81-year-old widow, Majorie ‘Marge’ Nugent. The murder happened in Carthage, Texas at Nugent’s house on November 19, 1996. The two knew each other before the murder and used to live together. Before the infamous crime, Tiede was often described as a saintly man who was not only soft-spoken, but dedicated to his work. He first met Nugent at her husband’s funeral and quit his job to become her personal assistant. Oblivious to his intentions, Nugent made him the sole heir to her multimillion-dollar estate. He carried out the crime in the most bizarre way and successfully hid it from the whole world for nine whole months. While she was dead in the freezer, Tiede went on to live a normal life. During this time, he also spent more than $500,000 of her money. In 1997, he confessed to killing Nugent and the jury sentenced him to 50 years of life imprisonment which was later extended to 99 years.
Childhood & Early Life
Bernhardt Tiede II was born on August 2, 1958 in Abilene, Texas, United States. His father was Bernhardt Tiede who was a native of Olgenow, Russia. He migrated to USA along with his family in 1926. Tiede’s mother was Lela Mae Jester who was Tiede Sr.’s first wife.
Tiede Sr. was a professor of music and choral director at Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio, Texas, and also at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Along with that, he has also taught at Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas, and then at McMurry College in Abilene where he was a director of the McMurry Chanters.
In addition to teaching, Tiede’s father was also a church music director and a vocal performer. He married again when Tiede’s mother died in an automobile accident when Tiede was just a child.
In 1963, Tiede Sr. married his second wife Clara Kathryn and Tiede got a stepmother. However, his father died when Tiede was fifteen years old.
He went to Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas and graduated in 1976.
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Before Bernie Tiede met Majorie Nugent, he used to work as a mortician. He was often described by people as ‘the most good-hearted man in the town’.
In March 1990, Tiede met Nugent at her husband’s funeral. At that time, he was helping the assistant director at Hawthorn Funeral Home. The two connected with each other instantly.
In just one year, he gained her trust and made her alter her will. Nugent disinherited her son and left the entire $5 million estate to Tiede. In 1993, Tiede left his job as a mortician and was no longer her personal assistant. In fact, he had become her business manager and travel companion.
Tiede murdered Nugent on November 19, 1996. He shot her in the back four times with a .22 rifle. After the murder, he placed her body in a freezer at her Carthage home. After killing her, he went on to live a normal life and lied to people about her whereabouts.
When her estranged son, Rod Nugent came back to Panola County nine months later it was discovered that she was missing. When Rod and his daughter entered the house, they found Nugent’s body wrapped in a white sheet and stored in the freezer.
When Tiede was taken in for questioning, he confessed to his crimes. Furthermore, he revealed that after killing Nugent, he cleaned the body and placed it in the freezer. Also, he used most of her money to give out gifts to his friends in Carthage.
He was sentenced to 50 years in prison by jury, but he appealed against his sentence. The courts ruled that there was sufficient evidence against Tiede to frame him for the murder.
Bernie Tiede went ahead and filed a post-conviction writ of habeas corpus in which he alleged that Nugent used to abuse him. Also, she provoked him and it brought back memories of sexual abuse from his uncle. After hearing his side, the Texas Criminal Courts of Appeal approved his appeal.
People’s opinion on Tiede was divided as some people remembered him for his kind nature, while others wanted to see him behind the bars. Nugent’s son, Rod blamed Tiede for his estrangement with his mother.
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He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Rod filed a lawsuit against Tiede for duping more than $3 million from Nugent.
Imprisonment & Release
Bernie Tiede entered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in 1999 and got attacked by his fellow inmates. But the prison officials often described him as ‘a model prisoner’ who would take health classes and participate willingly in prison’s choir.
Till May 2014, Tiede was serving life imprisonment. But, District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson and visiting Judge Diane Devasto allowed him to be released from his life sentence on $10,000 bail. It was discovered that Tiede was sexually abused number of times when he was a kid.
His attorney Jodi Cole alleged that Tiede shot Nugent due to a violent episode with her which brought back the past memories. This theory was backed by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard Pesikoff.
It was also revealed that the reason Tiede penned down a handwritten confession was because he had received several threats that his private videos would be leaked. After the new evidence was presented, Davidson agreed that he would have sought a lighter sentence for Tiede.
Nugent’s family was shocked by the release of Tiede and blamed Richard Linklater’s film ‘Bernie’ to influence the trial.
After his release in 2014 till his resentencing in 2016, Tiede lived in filmmaker Richard Linklater’s garage apartment. The resentencing trial began on April 6, 2016.
Nugent’s sister, Merrell Rhodes, brought new evidence stating that she was always afraid of her sister. Merrel’s son, Joe Rhodes also confirmed that movie’s portrayal of Nugent was accurate and his aunt was abusive by nature.
In spite of all this, on April 22, 2016, a jury of 10 women and two men issued a new sentence of 99 years or life to Tiede. The theft charges against him were dropped. In August 2017, Texas appeal court upheld the 99-year prison sentence.
In 2011, the movie Bernie’ based on Bernie Tiede’s life was released. It was directed by Richard Linklater and starred Jack Black as Tiede. The movie received critical acclaim for its direction and accuracy to the real-life event.