Bernie Tiede, a former mortician, killed rich Texas millionairess, Marjorie Nugent, and buried her body in her deep freezer 20 years ago. Tonight, CBS’s 48 Hours will re-examine the case in their episode “The Mortician, The Murder, The Movie.” On the show, CBS’s 48 Hours viewers will learn how the relationship developed between Bernie Tiede and Marjorie Nugent, and how that complicated relationship led to murder. In his own words, Bernie Tiede will speak about the case, along with law enforcement investigators who solved it.
The Non-Missed Texas Widow
81-year-old Marjorie Nugent was despised in Carthage, a small East Texas town filled with old rich widows. Without many friends, Marjorie Nugent found herself all alone, until a handsome mortician named Bernie Tiede came into her life. Authorities say Bernie Tiede befriended Marjorie Nugent after her banker husband, Rod Nugent, died. It was Bernie who helped with the funeral. Over the next several weeks and months, they became very close friends, so close that Marjorie wanted the 39-year-old bachelor with her as much as possible, according to People.
Soon, the mortician quit his job to work full time as a companion to Marjorie Nugent. Investigators say she lavished him with expensive gifts, took him on exotic vacations, and bought him a home. She also put Bernie Tiede on her bank accounts. But along with the shiny gifts and life of luxury came a controlling woman who wanted Bernie to do whatever she demanded.
The relationship between them, which was described as comfortable and loving, eventually soured as Marjorie began to treat Bernie in the same mean-spirited and hateful manner as she did with most people in the town.
The Deep Freezer Held A Heavy Secret
It took months before anyone realized that Marjorie Nugent was missing. Church members began asking questions and so did her stockbroker. Bernie Tiede gave several conflicting statements, leading Marjorie’s stockbroker to place a call to the police. Marjorie Nugent’s estranged son met the police at the house to do a welfare check, and what they found was like something right out a horror film.
Marjorie Nugent’s body was found in the deep freezer among many packages of frozen items, including corn, meat, and pecans. According to the documentary Strange Felony Files, what made the discovery particularly eerie was that the packages were placed on top of the body. Family members and investigators didn’t immediately realize what they were seeing until they took a closer look and saw Marjorie Nugent’s face between the frozen packages.
An autopsy report concluded that Nugent had been shot four times in the back. The story shocked the town of Carthage and spread like wildfire all over Texas. The murder even captured the attention of Hollywood movie producers who made a film based on the case titled, Bernie, according to the New York Daily News. The true-story movie was criticized for portraying Bernie’s character in a sympathetic light.
Family members say that Bernie is right where he belongs, in jail, serving a life sentence. They point to what Bernie did after he killed their beloved Marjorie as the real proof of his character. Investigators say just hours after the killing, Bernie Tiede went to a pizza party after a play rehearsal with some drama students, and months after her death, he enjoyed the good life and spent large sums of money while lying about Marjorie Nugent’s whereabouts.
A tearful Bernie Tiede says he’ll never forget what he did to Marjorie and hates to think about it. And he realizes that what he did will stay with him for the rest of his life, despite the number of years he has in prison. For the murder, Bernie Tiede is serving a sentence of 99 years or life in prison, according to the Texas Tribune.
Viewers can learn more about the bizarre tale by tuning into CBS’s 48 Hours tonight at 10/9 p.m. Central. Bernie, the movie, is available on Netflix. The Nicole Lovell teen murder case aired last week on 48 Hours.
[Featured Image by Michael Cavazos/Longview News Journal/AP Images]