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Ex-Mortician Whose Killing of Widow Inspired Movie Freed Early

/ Source: Associated Press
Bernie Tiede is led into the Panola County court house by law enforcement officials in Carthage, Texas, Tuesday, May 6, 2014.LM Otero / AP

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A former mortician whose killing of a rich widow shook an East Texas town and later inspired a movie will soon go free, after the district attorney who prosecuted him agreed Tuesday to let him out of a life sentence.

A judge set a $10,000 bond for Bernie Tiede after recommending that his prison term be reduced. He was expected to be released later Tuesday.

The now-55-year-old Tiede, who was well liked in the close-knit community of Carthage, was convicted in the death of his longtime companion, Marjorie Nugent. The 81-year-old widow had a reputation among townspeople as a crotchety cheapskate.

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 Bernie Tiede is led into the Panola County court house by law enforcement officials in Carthage, Texas, Tuesday, May 6, 2014. LM Otero / AP

The case inspired the 2012 dark comedy "Bernie" starring Jack Black in the title role and Shirley MacLaine as Nugent.

Tiede must live with Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater, who made the movie, as part of his release conditions. Panola County District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson agreed with Tiede's appeals attorney, Jodi Cole, who said he deserved a lighter sentence because he and Nugent had an abusive relationship before her death. Cole also argued that Tiede's being sexually assaulted as a child was a factor as well.

Nugent disappeared in 1996. Her corpse was found nine months later at her Carthage home about 150 miles east of Dallas, 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.

-- The Associated Press

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