Dallas Morning News
By Tod Robberson
November 14, 2014
I know you would probably prefer I move on to other subjects, but Bernie Tiede, I can’t quit you. You planned out the murder of an elderly lady, Marjorie Nugent, then stuffed her body into a deep freezer back in 1996. Now, in 2014, you are walking free down in Austin, the guest of film director Richard Linklater, all because Linklater used his star power to get your prison sentence at least temporarily suspended while an appeals panel reviews your case. Bernie, not only should you not be walking free right now, under Texas law, you should be in line for the death chamber for having committed capital murder.
Here’s why: Tiede did not, as his lawyer now argues, kill his longtime companion Marjorie Nugent in an act of sudden passion out of some dissociative episode related to the alleged sexual abuse he received as a child. Tiede killed her to cover up the fact that he had stolen millions of dollars from her and manipulated documents to hide that fact. Nugent and her family and Nugent’s banker finally had caught up with Tiede’s criminal behavior, and the day he shot Marjorie Nugent in the back,the two were scheduled to meet with her banker to discuss what Tiede had done with Marjorie’s money. And we’re talking about more than $3.5 million here.
Texas law is clear about what constitutes capital murder — that is, murder punishable by life imprisonment or death. Tiede’s lawyer argues that he was over-sentenced because he supposedly killed her because she was a mean lady who mistreated him, and this caused him to have flashbacks to alleged sexual abuse as a child. But Tiede admitted to having planned the murder for months, including planting the shotgun he used to kill her. He also spent years stealing her money and covering it up. Under Texas law, if you kill someone during the commission of robbery or burglary — and he was clearly robbing her blind — you qualify for sentencing for capital murder. If anything, Tiede was under-sentenced.
Bernie, that’s why I can’t quit you. You are a natural born killer who is walking free. The fact that you allowed your lawyer to make this sudden-passion argument means you have not fully accepted the gravity of your actions and are therefore unrepentant. The last thing a killer like you deserves is the freedom to possibly kill again. Even worse, the court released you into the hands of yet another millionaire.
I’ve obtained some documents from the investigation that clearly lay out the nature of Tiede’s crimes before he killed Marjorie Nugent. These are the withdrawals he made from Marjorie’s Shearson-Lehman investment accounts, funds she had entrusted him with power of attorney to invest for her. The power of attorney did not free him to spend as he pleased. He had a fiduciary duty to manage her money according to her wishes. Instead, he stole it.
Even worse, to cover up the thefts, he concocted separate deposit slips. The real deposit slips show what Bernie actually did with the money — remove it and spend it. The fake deposit slips are what Bernie handed to Marjorie to make her think he was actually investing her money instead of stealing it, and deceiving her into thinking her investment account was growing when, in fact, her funds were dwindling. This went on for more than three years, during which time he embezzled millions.
And even after he killed her, he continued to withdraw her money and spend it. Again, we’re not talking about chump change. On the day he killed her, he went through her purse and found her personal checking account, then withdrew $20,000 from that account. In total, in the months after her death but before he was caught, Tiede withdrew and spent more than $500,000 of her money.
There’s no “dissociative” episode here. This guy is a common criminal who got caught, then murdered the person most likely to expose his crimes.
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