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Nugent family releases checks allegedly forged by Bernie Tiede, argues they are evidence of motive in murder


By Field Sutton

EAST TEXAS (KYTX) - The family of Marjorie Nugent released photocopies of two checks Tuesday as part of an ongoing effort to see Bernie Tiede returned to prison for murdering Nugent. A Nugent family spokesperson said the checks were temporarily made available to the family in 1998 after having been seized by investigators.

Nugent's 1996 death was at the center of what has become one of East Texas' most notorious murder cases. She had been shot several times and then placed in a large freezer in her own garage where she remained undiscovered for months. Tiede, Nugent's longtime companion, confessed to the murder in a police interview in 1997. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1999.

In mid-2014 Tiede won his release from prison based his own alleged history of childhood sexual abuse and new medical testimony claiming he "snapped" when he murdered Nugent after years of suffering her alleged emotional abuse. Since then, Tiede has been living with filmmaker Richard Linklater who made the feature film about Nugent's death and agreed to house and supervise Tiede following his release.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is considering whether to make Tiede's release permanent or to force him to return to prison.

The Nugent Family has long held that reports of Marjorie's abusive behavior are untrue. Shanna Nugent and other family members opposed Tiede's release while his case was pending in Panola County District Court and have continued to fight for a reversal of the judge's decision.

Last week, the Nugents released a letter sent by Panola County Sheriff Kevin Lake in response to the family's open records request for evidence from the original murder investigation. That investigation spawned a second, still-pending charge of theft against Tiede in the amount of $100,000 to $200,000. The allegation was that Tiede had been siphoning large amounts of money off of Marjorie, likely without her knowledge.

The Nugent family believes Marjorie discovered Tiede's alleged thefts and died because Tiede wanted to avoid prosecution.

"They had this meeting with the bank and the bank's lawyers to try to solve where all this money was the day he killed her," Shanna told CBS 19 last week.

Sheriff Lake wrote that Tiede was engaged in a "deceptive course of conduct" before and after the murder which allegedly included "withdrawing large sums of money" from Nugent's accounts.

"The concealment of the body and deception in the withdrawals appears contrary to the sudden passion/emotion defense" that freed Tiede in the first place, Lake wrote. He went on to say the evidence Shanna wants could prove that her grandmother's murder was intentional and "rebut or counter the new evidence which arose in the writ hearing" where Tiede convinced a judge to let him go.

The checks released Tuesday were written from two different accounts in Nugent's name. One was written on November 20, 1996 (the day after Nugent's murder) for $20,000. The other was written on December 3, 1996 for $30,000. Both checks are made out to "Beta Tau Systems," a company the Nugent family said Tiede controlled prior to his arrest. Family spokesperson Ryan Gravatt said the family believes Tiede forged Nugent's signatures on the checks.

Gravatt said the family hopes to use this preponderance of evidence to convince the Court of Criminal Appeals to reinstate Tiede's life sentence.

"The Nugent family believes that transparency and sunlight will give everybody a full view of what Tiede's true motives were in murdering Marjorie Nugent," Gravatt said.

It is unclear when the court will make a final ruling.

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