The movie was based on the true story of Bernie Tiede, who was accused of killing Marjorie Nugent in 1996. At the time, he confessed to shooting her four times in the back and hiding her body in a freezer chest in her home in the East Texas town of Carthage. She remained there for nine months until she was found. When interrogated, he claimed that she had been “evil” and abusive to him.
Tiede had originally been given life in prison and, after being incarcerated nearly 16 years, was temporarily freed in 2014. Linklater and Black helped mount the campaign that led to his eventual (though temporary) freedom. His original prosecutor, Danny Buck Davidson, said the funeral director deserved a lesser sentence because new evidence showed that Tiede had been sexually abused as a minor. Tiede was working in the community during his brief respite from prison.
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That ended on Friday when, following a new sentencing trial, jurors deliberated for about 4.5 hours and sentenced Tiede to 99 years to life in prison.
In the resentencing trial, which began April 6, a psychiatrist who was testifying for the defense claimed that Tiede’s partnership with Nugent was typical of an abusive relationship. But lawyers from the Texas attorney general’s office argued that he was a con artist who was trying to cover up his stealing of her money. Nugent’s granddaughter Shanna, now an attorney herself, took an active role as a spokesperson for her grandmother during the case. Financial documents presented during the jury were on hand to help prosecutors show that Tiede was embezzling millions from the widow and instead of investing in stock, like he had told her, was spending it on himself and friends.
Now, Tiede is to return to prison after living in Austin on property owned by Linklater. Nugent’s family, who had been upset about how their family member was depicted in the film, released a statement following the trial: “The family always believed justice would come for their grandmother when a fair trial had all the facts and none of the myth,” said spokesman Ryan Gravatt.
Actress Shirley MacClaine portrayed Nugent in the Linklater film alongside Matthew McConaughey, who took on the role of Danny Buck.