Crime Throughout History: Bernie Tiede
- January 6, 2016
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
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The Bernie Tiede Case
Many residents of the East Texas area have heard the name Bernie Tiede. This man from Carthage, Texas became infamous after he was charged with murder in the late 1990’s. The case became well-known after some unusual circumstances regarding the incident were brought to light in the investigation and trial.
In recent years, the Bernie Tiede case has been brought back into the public spotlight after a famous Texas director made a major film about the murder. The film renewed public interest in the case and some people even claimed that the film swayed the legal system in Tiede’s favor. The case of Bernie Tiede will surely go down in history as a remarkable example of Texas justice.
In 1990, Bernie Tiede was working as an assistant funeral director in Carthage, Texas. That year, Tiede met Marjorie Nugent, an extremely wealthy widow, while he helped to direct the funeral service for Nugent’s husband.
Over the next few years, Bernie courted Marjorie and the two formed a close relationship. They were so close, in fact, that Marjorie changed her will in 1991 so that her entire $5 million estate would be left to Bernie instead of her son. Bernie left his job at the funeral home so that he could become a full-time assistant to Marjorie.
Things took a deadly turn in November of 1996 when Tiede shot Marjorie four times with a .22 caliber rifle. He then wrapped her body in a white sheet and stored the body in a deep freezer.
Over the next nine months, Tiede used Marjorie’s vast fortune to give gifts to some friends in the Carthage area. Eventually, Marjorie’s son declared his mother a missing person and he broke into his mother’s home in an attempt to find her. It was then that he discovered the body in the freezer.
In August of 1997, Bernie Tiede confessed to the murder of Marjorie Nugent. He was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison. He appealed the conviction but the sentence was upheld. Tiede tried to claim that Marjorie Nugent was abusive to him and that he committed the murder in altered state of mind brought on by Marjorie’s abuse and abuse he suffered as a child. However, this attempt to overturn the conviction was unsuccessful.
The Fallout and The Film
By many reports, the town of Carthage was divided over the case of Bernie Tiede. Many people in the town liked Tiede but Marjorie was not so popular. Even a relative of Marjorie claimed that “Margie was a very difficult woman to love.”
A local district attorney who worked on the case, Danny Buck Davidson, was told by many local residents that Bernie was a town favorite, even if he committed the crime. One resident told him “you won’t be able to find anyone in town who’s going to convict him for murder.” In fact, the support for Tiede was so strong and the dislike for Marjorie was so widespread that Danny Buck Davidson had the trial moved to Saint Augustine.
At the time of the case, famous Texas film director Richard Linklater became fascinated with the trial. He thought the case would make a great movie and, in 2011, “Bernie” was released to critical acclaim, featuring an all-star cast. Shortly after the film’s release, in May of 2014, Bernie Tiede was released from prison after paying $10,000 in bail.
The release was granted after an attorney re-introduced the evidence that Tiede was sexually abused as a child. The evidence had been collected at the initial investigation but had never been introduced in the 1999 trial.
While some people were thrilled for Bernie, others were upset that an admitted killer had been set free. Director Richard Linklater claimed that Bernie’s sentence had been too severe, stating “He has to do time, but I think he (got) an extremely harsh sentence.”
Marjorie Nugent’s granddaughter felt that the film “Bernie” played a major role in getting Tiede’s sentence overturned. She claimed “The movie is just the murderer’s defense at trial to shooting an 80-year-old woman four times in the back at close range.”
The story of Bernie Tiede has become a landmark case in Texas legal history. The case was extremely controversial and it remains divisive to this day. Some feel that Tiede got away with murder while others felt that he didn’t get a fair trial. No matter how people feel about the sentence, the case of Bernie Tiede will be getting attention for years to come.