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Bernhardt "Bernie" Tiede II (born August 2, 1958) is an American convicted murderer, who confessed to shooting dead 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.
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 (1933–1961). 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 when he was fifteen in Abilene, Texas. Bernie Tiede graduated from Cooper High School (Abilene, Texas) in 1976.
According to the Amarillo Globe-News (October 26, 1998), Tiede—a former funeral director and mortician—was 38 years old in November 1996 when he shot Nugent in the back four times with a rifle. Tiede then placed Nugent's body in a freezer used to store food at her Carthage home, and then sealed the freezer with duct tape. Nine months later, Nugent's son, Amarillo pathologist Dr. Rod Nugent, was contacted by police when they became suspicious and called him for help. Dr. Nugent found his mother's body in the freezer, wrapped in a white sheet.
Tiede admitted to the murder to police in August 1997. He admitted he had given gifts to several male friends in Carthage using Nugent's money. At his trial, Tiede alleged in his defense that the 81-year-old Nugent was controlling and emotionally abusive toward him, driving him to murder her in a fit of rage.
Tiede met Nugent in March 1990, at her husband's funeral. 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 $10 million estate to Tiede. 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."
The Globe-News reported: "By 1993, Tiede had left the funeral home to work full-time as Nugent's business manager and travel companion. The next several years were a whirlwind of travel as the pair took cruises and exotic trips all over the world. Tiede also began taking Nugent's riches to give to the Carthage poor. He started scholarships for students at Panola College, pledged money to the First United Methodist building campaign and did a fund-raising drive for the Boy Scouts. Despite his secret life, he continued to spend time with Marjorie Nugent - until November 16, 1996. The couple was preparing to leave the house for lunch that day when Tiede said he picked up a .22 rifle from the garage and shot her."
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."
Tiede was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. Dr. Rod Nugent filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tiede, claiming Tiede had embezzled more than $3 million from Marjorie Nugent.