Bernie Tiede, a Texas mortician sentenced to life for his 1996 murder of a wealthy widow, was the inspiration for the 2012 film Bernie. On Tuesday, a judge freed Tiede on bond, and it now appears he's going to move in with director Richard Linklater, who turned his story into a dark comedy.
Tiede, 55, befriended aged oil millionaire Marjorie Nugent after overseeing her husband's funeral and was eventually written into her will. He admitted to shooting and killing Nugent, but the prosecutor's psychologist testified the murder wasn't premeditated.
In the year between the widow's death and Tiede's 1997 confession, Tiede became a local hero in Carthage, Texas, giving huge chunks of his $10 million inheritance to charity.
Tiede's current attorney, Jodi Cole, took on his appeal after seeing Linklater's 2012 film, which starred Jack Black as Tiede and Shirley MacLaine as Nugent. Cole successfully argued for Tiede's freedom by raising the issue of his childhood sexual abuse and his abusive relationship with Mrs. Nugent. If those issues had been brought up at trial, Tiede's sentence would have maxed out at 20 years.
Linklater testified that he'd be willing to set up Tiede, who must undergo sexual abuse counseling and is forbidden from owning firearms, in his Austin garage apartment. Living with Linklater until the early release is approved is one of the conditions of Tiede's bond, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
"I was very impressed in prison how the other inmates looked up to him… He seemed to be a very positive force in a negative environment. Myself and others are determined to help him in any way we can," Linklater said.
He didn't specify how long Tiede would be allowed to stay with him.