Bernie Tiede, the Texas mortician-slash-murderer made famous when Jack Black portrayed him in Bernie, was released yesterday—to go live in the garage apartment of Richard Linklater, who co-wrote and directed the 2011 movie. Tiede, who in 1996 killed his longtime companion, wealthy 81-year-old widow Marjorie Nugent, was originally sentenced to life in prison. But his appeals attorney argued that his sentence should be reduced because he was sexually assaulted as a child and Nugent (played by Shirley MacLaine) was abusive toward him; her body was found 9 months after she vanished in a freezer in her garage. The DA who originally prosecuted Tiede agreed, the AP reports, and Tiede was freed on $10,000 bond. The state criminal appeals court still needs to formally sign off on the reduction.
A psychiatrist who examined Tiede explained that he killed Nugent in a "brief dissociative episode," and that the murder was not planned. Tiede, now 55, "doesn't come across in examination at all as a person prone to violence," he testified yesterday. "That set of circumstances ... is not going to re-create itself." The sexual abuse Tiede suffered at the hands of an uncle between ages 12 and 18 had not been divulged during the trial—a lawyer who decided to investigate the case, with Linklater's blessing, after seeing the movie discovered Tiede had been abused, Texas Monthly explained in a January article. Linklater—who has always been adamant Tiede is no longer a threat, the Houston Chronicle notes—volunteered to take Tiede into his Austin home, and the judge ordered Tiede to get counseling for the abuse he endured.