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Jury sentences Bernie Tiede to 99 years or life in prison

🕐 2 min read

An East Texas jury on Friday night sentenced convicted murderer Bernie Tiede to 99 years or life in prison. 

Tiede gunned down wealth Carthage widow Marjorie Nugent and stuffed her in a freezer in 1996, ending what he called an abusive relationship. Her body was discovered nine months later, and during that time Tiede went about his life and lied about Nugent’s whereabouts. A San Augustine County jury sentenced him to life in prison in 1999. 

Tiede, a former mortician, became Nugent’s companion and something of a personal assistant and financial adviser. She was 81, more than 40 years his senior, at the time of her death. Their relationship and the murder inspired 2011 black comedy “Bernie,” starring Jack Black as Tiede. 

Thanks in part to the movie, his punishment didn’t stick. A state district court set aside the sentence in 2014 and released Tiede ahead of a second trial to reargue the 20-year-old details of the case and evaluate whether Tiede’s history of being sexually abused — unmentioned in his first trial — could have played a role in the killing. 

The new jury heard the state’s argument that Tiede enjoyed the high life, kept the company of older, widowed women for their money and killed Nugent when he feared that his mismanagement of her money would be revealed. Tiede’s attorneys said he was the victim and that Nugent was a bitter, unforgiving and relentless woman who alienated friends and family and emotionally abused Tiede. His decision to kill her was a result of her abuse triggering the memories of being assaulted by an older family member, his advocates argued. 

Tiede’s supporters testified that he was not a danger to society and has demonstrated that he has been rehabilitated since his release. The state argued that he truly hadn’t been tested. 

The jury reached its decision a few hours after being sent to deliberate. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/04/22/jury-sentences-bernie-tiede-99-years-or-life/.

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