Gather ‘round, true crime fanatics: did you know that a murderer who was the subject of a Jack Black dark comedy film some years back has a connection to Abilene, Texas?

Who is Bernie Tiede, and how is he connected to Abilene?

Bernie Tiede was a well-liked assistant mortician in the town of Carthage, in East Texas. The son of a German immigrant who worked as a music professor and choir director at McMurry University, Tiede graduated from Cooper High School in Abilene in 1976.

Tiede met the elderly wealthy widow Marjorie Nugent in 1990 after he helped arrange her husband’s funeral. He became her only companion, leading to her alter her will to leave her $10 million estates to Tiede instead of her son in 1991. Tiede was her full-time business manager by 1996.

What about the murder?

That same year, Tiede killed Nugent by shooting her four times in the back with a .22 rifle and placing her body in a freezer in her house in Carthage. Nugent’s son eventually declared her a missing person, her body was discovered in said freezer, and Tiede was convicted of first-degree murder, with sufficient evidence that the crime was premeditated.

What about the movie?

The film Bernie (2011) was written by filmmaker Richard Linklater (of Dazed and Confused fame) and Texas Monthly reporter Skip Hollandsworth and starred comedy powerhouse Jack Black as Tiede in the title role. Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey also appeared in the film. It was a glowing success in the independent film community, and Jack Black’s performance earned him a Golden Globe nod.

An Austin-based lawyer saw the film and petitioned for a resentencing hearing for Tiede’s case based on unconsidered evidence that the murder wasn't premeditated. He was released from his life sentence in 2014 on bail. After four-and-a-half hours of deliberation in a resentencing hearing in 2016, Tiede was issued a new sentence of 99 years or life.

 

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