Bernie Returns!

Bernie Tiede, the Carthage man whose story of shooting the town's richest widow inspired a movie, may be walking free next week.
Sat January 25, 2014 9:30 am

time together every day in a non-sexual way and traveled extensively. But gradually, wrote Pesikoff, “Mr. Tiede indicates that their relationship significantly deteriorated, with Mrs. Nugent becoming unbearably abusive, painfully controlling, and constantly demeaning. He reports that she became extremely possessive and jealous, not allowing him to go anywhere without her.” Bernie told Pesikoff that among the things Mrs. Nugent made him do was shoot at armadillos while she demeaned and ridiculed him (because he was such a bad shot), demanding he shave her legs while she was undressed and that he massage her back with a vibrator.

Bernie said Mrs. Nugent also became “extremely critical and accusatory” of a friend of Bernie’s who worked as a gardener at the Nugent home and who carried on a secret, sexual relationship with Bernie. What’s more, said Bernie, “Mrs. Nugent’s anger continued to increase to the point that he attempted to end their relationship on many occasions. Tiede was unsure why, even after the abusive treatment from Mrs. Nugent, he felt unable to just pick up and leave.”

Pesikoff declared:

Mr. Tiede’s ability to repress and compartmentalize the abusive events from childhood and adolescence was ultimately overwhelmed by the repeated and extensive psychological abuse he suffered from Mrs. Nugent. The end result, his loss of control over his emotions and behavior, is evidenced in his final actions toward Mrs. Nugent.

But the shooting, Pesikoff concluded, was not a sinister, planned act. Pesikoff said Tiede told him that he felt he was outside his body, watching himself shoot Mrs. Nugent. Pesikoff concluded that Tiede had experienced a “psychological dissociative experience” at the time of the shooting. What’s more, said Pesikoff, the fact that Bernie kept her in the freezer in hopes of someday burying her—when almost all other criminals try to dispose of the body—suggested that Bernie did not have an “antisocial character disorder.”

Pesikoff noted that Bernie has no “diagnosable psychiatric disorder” and that his judgment is “good.” He also found it significant that Bernie has been an exemplary prisoner since his 1997 arrest. In prison, he has taught a health course to other inmates, attends weekly chapel services, and has obtained his paralegal certificate by taking classes over the Internet. “In the opinion of this consultant and in all medical probability, it is extremely unlikely that, if released from prison and the recipient of appropriate psychological counseling. Mr. Tiede would ever commit any similar act in the future,” Pesikoff wrote. “Through counseling, Mr. Tiede can address his past abusive experiences and develop appropriate skills that would allow him to form and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. Mr. Tiede has a history of always having been a generous and helpful person who, given the opportunity to return to civilian life, has the desire and capacity to once again become a constructive and positive force in society.”

Is it possible that the sexual abuse Bernie endured as a child is inextricably connected to his gruesome murder of Mrs. Nugent? And if so, should that affect his sentence? What will probably determine Bernie’s fate is another psychiatric evaluation that was conducted last week by Dr. Edward Gripon, a psychiatrist from Beaumont whom District Attorney Davidson had hired to evaluate Bernie back at his 1998 trial. According to various sources, if Gripon determines that Bernie is no longer a threat and decides that there is no chance he would commit such a crime again, then Davidson could agree that Bernie’s sentence should be shortened and Bernie be set free. Davidson did perhaps give a hint at what he might do when told the local Carthage newspaper, the Panola Watchman, “When new things come up that weren’t there at the beginning, you have to look at them."

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