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Convicted Texas murderer featured in 'Bernie' movie to be released

By Marice Richter

DALLAS (Reuters) - A former mortician whose conviction for killing an elderly East Texas woman inspired the 2011 movie "Bernie" will be released from prison on bond after a judge ruled the original life sentence was too harsh, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The Longview News Journal said Bernie Tiede, 55, who was convicted at a trial in 1999, will be sentenced to time served and set free after posting a $10,000 personal bond.

The judge made the decision after hearing testimony on Tuesday to reduce the sentence based on new evidence that Tiede was sexually abused as a child, which may have led him to snap and kill 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent in 1996 in a fit of rage.

The trial jury ruled out sudden passion. Tiede received the maximum life sentence for premeditated murder.

Court officials were not immediately available for comment.

"Bernie," a dark comedy starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine, chronicled Tiede's life in Carthage, Texas, his relationship with wealthy widow Nugent and the crime where he shot her dead and put her body in a freezer.

Tiede left his job as an assistant funeral director to become business manager for Nugent, who had become a close companion. Tiede's lawyers said Nugent had a reputation in the town of Carthage for being "a bully and unkind."

Tuesday's decision had been expected and Panola County District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson told the Longview News-Journal, "I'm not telling you I like it, but there's not much I can do about it now."

Ryan Gravatt, a spokesman for the Nugent family, told the Longview News-Journal that Tiede should stay behind bars.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Grant McCool)

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