The family of murder victim Marjorie Nugent, whose killer, Bernie Tiede, was the subject of a 2011 Hollywood movie, is glad that Tiede is back in prison for life.
Bernie Tiede, who was first convicted for the 1996 murder in 1999, was later granted an appeal based on the theory that he was in a dissociative state at the time of the killing due to abuse he’d suffered earlier in life.
But on April 22, a second jury ruled that Tiede should spend the rest of his life behind bars for killing Nugent, 81, and hiding her body in a freezer.
Mike DeGeurin, Tiede’s attorney, tells PEOPLE that “the next step is a motion for a new trial and then an appeal. Those are the next procedural steps.”
The case became famous thanks to a 2011 movie, Bernie, directed by Richard Linklater. In the film, Bernie was portrayed as a sweet man who was beloved in the small Texas town of Carthage, while Marjorie was depicted as an abusive villain.
“The premise was, ‘The nicest guy in the world is driven to murder by a bitchy woman,’ ” says Marjorie’s granddaughter, Shanna Nugent.
After the appeal was granted, “they let him out on bond, and part of the ruling by the judge was that he had to live with the movie director. It was really bizarre.”
While articles and the movie portrayed Marjorie as a domineering, mean person, her granddaughter describes her as a “really loving and touchy-feely” person. She recalls spending a week and a half with her grandparents on their farm every year.
“My grandmother taught me how to make cornbread,” she says. “And she was an amazing seamstress; she could make you a whole wardrobe.”
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‘I Think She Was Madly in Love with Him’
When Shanna was 16, her grandfather died. That’s when Marjorie met Tiede, who was working at the funeral home which made the arrangements.
“He started purporting a sweetheart scam on her,” Nugent says. “At some point, they started dating.”
Nugent says he eventually stole $3.8 million of her money, which Marjorie was oblivious to at the time. When the family got suspicious and told her he was scamming her, “she got really angry and threw them out,” Nugent says. “I think she was madly in love with him.”
She then became estranged from most people who cared about her. In 1997, after the family filed a missing-persons report on Marjorie, her son broke into her house and found her body.
“You don’t ever expect anyone in your family to be murdered,” Nugent says. “We thought she might be in the hospital somewhere.”
‘People Are Still Willing to Believe the Con’
Instead, they eventually learned of the chilling events that led to her death. In his confession, Nugent says, Tiede wrote that he went to Marjorie’s home that day at 8 a.m.
“He moved the rifle, cleared out the freezer and made her coffee,” she says.
After going home to shower, he returned to Marjorie’s house. While she was outside, petting her dog, he shot her four times in the back. According to his confession, he then dragged her lifeless body into the house, put her in the freezer, placed frozen food on top of her and taped the freezer shut.
“Then he went to a dress rehearsal for ‘Guys and Dolls,'” Nugent says. “Afterward, he took the cast and crew out for pizza, using my grandmother’s credit card.”
Now that a second jury has also given him a life sentence, Nugent says her family feels vindicated.
“This is the worst kind of criminal,” she says of Tiede. “It’s scary when a known con man is proven to have done all of this, and people are still willing to believe the con. And Hollywood makes a movie out of him.”
Nugent hopes beyond anything else that her family’s story puts a spotlight on crimes against the elderly.
“My husband died this year,” she says. “I don’t think I really understood how vulnerable widows are until that happened to me. I think as a society, we should protect the weak.”