Fifteen years after he was convicted of murder, people across the country are learning about an East Texas man named Bernie Tiede.
The movie "Bernie," is being shown in select theatres from New York City to Los Angeles. It tells the story of Bernie's life with Marjorie Nugent and the murder that sent him to prison.
KLTV went to New Boston, about 100 miles north of Carthage, to get Bernie's account of everything that happened.
As movie-goers file in and out of theatres, the man who the movie is all about, sits in the Barry Telford Prison Unit.
He has been there for 15 years and is expected to be there for 15 more.
Tiede hasn't seen the movie that's based on how he got where he is today. He doesn't know if he ever will. But, he does know the real story behind it.
Tiede was a mortician. He was born in Tyler, raised in Kilgore, and eventually settled in Carthage. It was at the town funeral home where he met Marjorie Nugent. She was a wealthy woman who Tiede says didn't get along with many people.
"She kind of spurned a lot of people away from her in a lot of respects in town. Even her family and her sisters and her son... she couldn't stand him. They hadn't talked to each other in 15 years," says Tiede
But, as both the movie and Bernie himself tell it, he just couldn't stand to see her lonely.
"She wanted to go out to eat and I'd take her out to eat. She wanted to go to the Cherokee Club and go out places around town," Tiede says. "I felt obligated to her, very much so, and I felt very sorry for her."
He says they took extravagant vacations-- all over the world-- with Marjorie footing the bill.
"We've been to Egypt, we've been to Hong Kong, we've been to Bangkok, Thailand. We've been to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France," he says the list goes on and on.
"She gave me money. She gave me $3 Million," he says.
But after a while, things changed. He says the relationship became mutually destructive.
"It got worse and worse and she was becoming more possessive of my time and energies. I felt like I was in prison. I now know what that feels like, but it was really bad," Tiede says.
It got so bad that he took her life in November 1996.
"I don't know what exactly caused that morning to happen. I called her and said, 'We're going to Longview. I'm going to run to take my clothes to the cleaners,' he says
Bernie says he asked Marjorie if she wanted to ride with him and get lunch at Hunan's Chinese Restaurant.
"So, I went out there to go and pick her up and she started nagging at me about something," he says.
To this day, Tiede says he still doesn't know what got into him in that moment.
"I don't know really," he says choking back tears. "I got scared. Yeah, I got really scared," he says as a tear rolls down his cheek.
"I can't justify what I did... ever. I have to live with that for the rest of my life and I will. I'm sorry for every bit of that but it was just a bad situation. It was a one-time thing and it just happened and I just snapped. I just snapped," he says.
For nine months, Tiede made up stories about why Marjorie wasn't around.
"Nobody really asked about her," he says. "I made up some stuff... I just thought I'd tend to that later.
Eventually, investigators went looking for her and found her body in the freezer.
Bernie confessed to the crime.
"It was such a relief when I was arrested because it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders," he says.
Tiede says he's hopeful he won't actually spend the rest of his life in prison.
"I have to do 30 flat years in here, unless I can get my sentence reduced, which I would like to attempt to do sooner or later," he says.
Many people have expressed that they don't think Tiede deserves all of the attention he is getting. They say he especially doesn't deserve to have a movie made about him.
"Perhaps I don't deserve a movie," he says. "I don't know who does deserve one. I don't know what makes a person deserve one. But, I would like to just let everybody know that I'm very humbled by all of this," Tiede says.
Tiede would like to see the movie be successful for those who put the time and effort into making it. He says he hopes the movie shows people a character that is close to how he sees himself.
"I just hope that people will realize that anybody has that capability of doing that and that's what I think the movie shows. I don't spend up nights thinking of how to get rid of folks. I am just like you, and it just [was] a one time freakish thing that just happened. It just happened to me, and I'm dealing with it for the rest of my life," Tiede says.
Bernie Tiede is not eligible for parole until 2027.
The East Texas premiere of Bernie is scheduled for May 31 at the Four Star Cinema in Kilgore. Tickets are pre-sale only. The film will open in Tyler and Longview on June 1.
Copyright 2012 KLTV. All rights reserved.
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