By Field Sutton
May 21, 2014
Two weeks ago Bernie Tiede cried as he heard a judge tell him to walk out of the Panola County jail a free man.
That day one of the twelve jurors who put him away for life 1999 wondered whether he shed any tears for Marjorie Nugent back in 1996.
"I don't even know if he could have, because it didn't affect him a bit," Juror Mel Nagel said. "He could go kill her, put her in the freezer, clean up and then go to a pizza party. I don't think he has any feelings.
Nugent had been a prominent person in Carthage, and Bernie's decision to shoot her and then hide her body in a freezer inside her own home caused quite a scandal in the small East Texas town.
Thanks to Tiede's trial being moved out of Panola County, Mel Nagel never knew the back story. But he said it didn't take long to figure it out.
"He confessed to the officers like an hour and a half after they picked him up that he had shot her," Nagel said. "We were supposed to be lenient to him because she was 'mean.'"
Nagel said after hearing the evidence there was no doubt in his mind the murder was in cold blood.
"He shot her...in the back. Four times in the back," Nagel said. "I guess, I don't know which order, whether he cleaned up and then he put her in the freezer or if he put her in the freezer and then cleaned up the garage, you know."
Nagel said he and the other jurors just couldn't bring themselves to say a "mean" person deserves to die.
"There was no argument at all about that," he said.
For him, the truth was something more sinister than the makings of a Hollywood black comedy.
"She might have been quiet or mean or not associated with a lot of people but he is a con man," Nagel said. "He got caught."
Nagel said he believes a story about childhood abuse--and a life sentence cut short--are just Tiede's latest con.
"I don't think he has a conscience," Nagel said. "I think it's a definite possibility that he can be dangerous."
Tiede remains unable to speak to the media due to bond conditions in place until the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upholds or strikes down the decision to set him free. In the mean time he's living with Bernie filmmaker Richard Linklater in Austin.