Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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May 7, 2014

Ex-Texas mortician Bernie Tiede being freed from prison on bond

CARTHAGE — A former mortician sentenced to life for killing a rich East Texas widow will be released from prison early under an agreement with the prosecutor.

The judge recommending a reduction in Bernie Tiede's sentence set bond at $10,000 Tuesday. A state criminal appeals court must sign off on the sentence reduction while Tiede is out on bond.

Tiede, now 55, was convicted in 1999 for the shooting death of Marjorie Nugent in Carthage about 150 miles east of Dallas. The case inspired the movie "Bernie."

The 81-year-old widow had a reputation among townspeople as a crotchety cheapskate. The case inspired the 2012 dark comedy "Bernie" starring Jack Black in the title role and Shirley MacLaine as Nugent.

The judge has agreed to let Tiede live with filmmaker Richard Linklater, who made the 2012 dark comedy.

The district attorney agreed that Tiede deserved leniency. Newly uncovered evidence showed Tiede was assaulted as a child and had an abusive relationship with Nugent.

Nugent disappeared in 1996. Her corpse was found nine months later at her Carthage home, wrapped in a sheet lying among packages of frozen corn, pecans and meat. She had been shot in the back four times with a .22-caliber rifle.

Tiede had met Nugent in 1990 at the funeral of her husband R.L. "Rod" Nugent, who had made his fortune in oil and banking. The two would grow close, taking trips around the world, and Nugent signed a will leaving her estimated $10 million fortune to Tiede.

Tiede became known around town for his generosity. Townspeople have said he started scholarships, pledged money to a church building campaign and ran a fundraising drive for Boy Scouts. He also gave away large gifts, including several cars.

After Tiede was charged in Nugent's killing, pretrial publicity led to the case being moved to San Augustine, about 50 miles southeast of Carthage. A jury there convicted him in 1999 and sentenced him to life in prison.

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