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In a story that's stranger that fiction, a filmmaker, who made a movie about a real-life killer, is now housing that very killer so he can be set free. It sounds completely bonkers, but when you hear the details, you might be surprised how sweet the whole thing (sort of) is.
The Statesman reports convicted murderer Bernie Tiede has been released from jail, and director Richard Linklater has offered to take in the ex-con into his own home. Fans of Linklater might rightly remember that Texas-born filmmaker made a dark comedy about Tiede's life and murder trial with the 2011 Jack Black vehicle Bernie. But the two's connection goes deeper. But first, you need to know about Bernie Tiede.
Bernie Tiede was a soft-spoken mortician and active member of the community of Carthage, Texas. He was well liked in the community, especially by older women like octogenarian Marjorie Nugent. She was an extremely affluent widow with whom Tiede became unlikely besties, unlikely not just because of their age, but also because Nugent was a reported to be a pretty unlikeable and unkind person. The two grew close and traveled the world together, which stunned many in Carthage who found Nugent to be relentlessly cantankerous and cruel. But eventually people saw less and less of Nugent. Tiede made excuses for her, saying she was unwell or she was traveling. But the disturbing truth eventually came out: Tiede had killed her, shooting her four times in the back with a rifle.
Not only that, Tiede had sealed up corpse in a freezer, where it sat for nine months before being uncovered. Tiede confessed, but insisted it was self-defense because of her repeated emotional abuse. Despite the disturbing circumstances surrounding the murder, public opinion hands down favored Tiede. After all, people liked Tiede. He was friendly and warm. And he had used Nugent's fortune to give back to the community in the form of scholarships, donations and various gifts. Despite public support in Carthage, Tiede was convicted in 1999. And the whole story--from Nugent and Tiede's unconventional relationship to the murder itself to its cover-up and the unusual response of the locals--intrigued Linklater.
Revisit Bernie and the wild details of this case with its trailer below:
The Texas native told the Statesman:
"I knew Bernie and this town. I just knew this world so well. It stayed with me. It’s kind of incumbent on storytellers, in a general sense, to tell stories from their area. It’s something they know. So it’s in that tradition that I enjoy creating bigger-than-life characters. Because that’s what we have around here."
Richard Linklater got to know Bernie Tiede while making the film, which was a blend between docudrama and documentary, featuring real interviews with Carthage residents. When attorney Jodi Cole saw Bernie, she approached Linklater about re-examining Tiede's case. From there, she uncovered evidence of sexual abuse Tiede had suffered that gave reason for an appeals case. Linklater testified on Tiede's behalf this past Tuesday, and there offered the garage apartment of his Austin home for Tiede's new residence. With the added condition of a $10,000 bond, required counseling and a prohibition from Tiede owning a gun, he was released from his life sentence. And now he'll live with Linklater. It's like something out of the movies.
Below you can see a video of the 55-year-old's release: