In this day of Anna Nicole Smith marrying an 89-year-old billionaire and Hugh Hefner parading his Bunnies around with him until his death at 91, it’s common to see much younger women with older men. But when it’s reversed and it’s a younger man with a much older woman, is it as acceptable? Unlike with Anna Nicole or Hugh Hefner, Bernie Tiede and Marjorie Nugent didn’t have as much of a controversial relationship, until it ended. And even then, the town didn’t make much of a fuss over it.
Bernie Tiede was the son of Bernhardt Tiede and his first wife, Lela Mae Jester. When Bernie was born in 1958, his parents had settled in Abilene, TX. When Bernie was two years old his mother died, and his father remarried in 1963. After graduating in 1976, Bernie became a mortician and settled in the town of Carthage, TX. He was a very popular person in town.
Carthage Texas was near the Louisiana border and seemed to like Bernie. In March of 1990, he met Marjorie Nugent after her husband passed away. He helped her plan the funeral for her husband and eventually became her inseparable companion. Marjorie was 74 years old in 1990 and Bernie was 32.
The story of Bernie and Marjorie wasn’t very well known outside of East Texas until 2011 when the story was brought to life with Jack Black starring in Bernie. The movie portrays Bernie (Jack Black) as a comforting figure to the local widows in town after their husbands pass on. Until he meets Marjorie Nugent. When Marjorie becomes too controlling, Bernie takes drastic measures to distance himself from her.
That’s the dramatized version. But in reality, less than a year later, Marjorie changed her will, disinheriting her only child Rod Nugent and leaving her entire $10 million estate to Bernie. In 1993, Bernie left the funeral home and began working full time for Marjorie as her business manager and travel companion.
In November 1996, Bernie Tiede shot Marjorie Nugent in the back four times with a .22 caliber rifle. He then placed her body in a freezer used to store food at her home.
Marjorie’s estranged son, Rod, had grown concerned after being unable to reach his mother. Rod traveled to his mother’s home after nine months of not reaching her. He had her declared a missing person, and Rod and his daughter entered his mother’s house and then found her in the freezer.
Bernie admitted to the murder in August of 1997, and he stated that after he killed her, he prepared her body (he was a trained mortician) and placed it in a freezer. Marjorie had given him power of attorney over her money, and he used it for civic activities, gifts, and charities.
Bernie was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced him to 50 years. Appealing his conviction, the appellate courts found there was sufficient evidence to have found premeditation. Even though he admitted to shooting her in the back four times and keeping her body in a deep freeze in the garage for nine months, the district attorney prosecuting him actually had trouble convincing folks in town that what he’d done was wrong.
After the release of the movie, Bernie, a new attorney took interest in the case and filed a post-conviction writ of habeas corpus and Bernie claimed that his constitutional rights were violated. He also claimed that Marjorie was controlling and emotionally abusive toward him. When he had murdered her, he was in a dissociative state. The writ was approved, and Rod claimed that Bernie had estranged his mother from all the people she had at one time had in her life and eventually they became angry with her.
At resentencing Bernie was given a life in prison sentence. Marjorie’s son Rod filed a wrongful death suit against Bernie and claimed he had embezzled over $3 million from his mother.
As of 2021, Tiede is incarcerated at the John B. Connally Unit He is not eligible for parole until August 3, 2029. It is reported that Bernie is a model prisoner, teaching health classes and helping other inmates.
That my friends is the odd case of Bernie Tiede and Marjorie Nugent. It makes zero sense that a random mortician from a small town was so well liked that even when committing murder he was still accepted.
Be strong, make good choices, stay safe