It’s been a big week for convicted gay murderers who had their stories portrayed on the big screen being released from prison. First it was “Party Monster” Michael Alig, and now comes word that mortician Bernie Tiede (portrayed by Jack Black in the movie “Bernie”) has not only been released from prison, but is living in a garage apartment owned by “Bernie” director Richard Linklater. It’s been reported that Tiede has been set free on $10,000 bond under conditions including that he live Linklater’s apartment (which Linklater reportedly gladly offered up).
Now it should be made clear that there is a big difference between Alig and Tiede. Alig killed and dismembered his dealer Andre “Angel” Melendez over a drug debt. Tiede’s story, well, just seems a little more sweet. As sympathetically portrayed in Linklater’s film, Tiede — who was beloved by the residents of his Cathridge, Texas town — was convicted of the 1996 murder of a wealthy widow named Marjorie Nugent (played by Shirley MacLaine), who was allegedly a pretty wretched woman who was incredibly cruel to Tiede in particular (not that that warrants murder, but if you’ve seen “Bernie” you get what I mean).
As noted in the CNN story, a resident of Cathridge, told prosecutor Danny Buck Davidson: “She was so mean that even if Bernie did kill her, you won’t be able to find anyone in town who’s going to convict him for murder.”
One Carthage resident, James Baker, who knew Tiede, told Tyler, Texas, TV station KLTV, on the other hand: “I’m glad that he’s out. I don’t think that he’s a threat to anybody anywhere, but in the back of my mind you do say well, he did murder her and put her in a freezer.”
One the most fascinating aspects of the new development is it was the film was “Bernie” that aided Tiede in actually getting out of prison.
According to The Washington Post, attorney Jodi Cole saw the film at a Texas Monthly screening and was “troubled by some of the issues it raised.” Taking Tiede as a client, she learned he had been sexually abused. Armed with that evidence, as well as a belief the sentence was unduly harsh, she got Tiede’s sentence reduced to time served (he originally had a life sentence).
It’s a pretty dramatic twist in a story that perhaps warrants a sequel at this point. Though this time Linklater himself might be a character.