CARTHAGE — Although convicted killer Bernie Tiede has been in the Panola County Detention Center since Tuesday, officials at the courthouse and sheriff’s department were unsure what brought him back to East Texas.
“(Tiede) applied to the district judge and said ‘hey we have something we want you to hear,’” Panola County Chief Deputy John DePresca said Thursday afternoon, as he explained the county was merely holding Tiede on a bench warrant.
“We’re just housing him, awaiting an order from the court,” he said, adding the bill to transport Tiede from his prison cell in New Boston to Carthage and back, as well as housing him during his stay will be footed by Panola County taxpayers.
The cost to house an inmate there, DePresca said, is about $20 per day if the inmate doesn’t have any special dietary or medical needs.
He said as far as he knew Tiede was not on any medication and the county was only him providing the minimum three meals a day and a place to sleep.
District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson told News Messenger sister paper The Panola Watchman Thursday that new evidence had surfaced that could affect the outcome of Tiede's sentencing.
“I’m not at liberty to discuss it further at this time, but when new things come up that weren’t there at the beginning you have to look at them,” Davidson said. “There may be events that take place that dictate other things.”
Once inside the courthouse, the prosecutor issued a brief statement to the News-Journal saying, “It’s too early in this, but when something happens it’ll be fast.”
Tiede has served 14 years of a life sentence for the 1997 murder of wealthy Carthage widow Marjorie Nugent. On Wednesday it appeared his return to East Texas was due to new evidence that could affect his sentence.
That evidence led to Tiede filing a writ of habeas corpus which is a means used to give a prisoner an opportunity to air grievances related to the handling of his case. It might claim a violation such as ineffective legal representation, or provide an avenue for new evidence that could affect the outcome of a case to be made public. Such a writ requires the prisoner be brought back before the court in which he was convicted for a hearing on the matters being claimed.
Tiede was transported by vehicle shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday from the detention center to the courthouse where he visited with his attorney.
Documents filed this past week in Panola County’s 123rd District Court show Austin-based attorney Jodi Callaway Cole is representing Tiede, replacing Longview attorney Clifton “Scrappy” Holmes.
Cole’s signature appears on a motion to substitute counsel in the case.
Tiede has consistently argued his sentence was too harsh, but people around town said it was not harsh enough.
“He hasn’t been in there long enough, not for what he did and how he did it,” resident Noland Malone said Thursday afternoon. “That was pretty gruesome killing her like that and putting her in the freezer for eight months.”
Virginia Woods agreed even though she doesn’t believe he would kill again if he were released early.
“I knew Bernie personally, but I also know someone did die. I don’t think he’s a danger to the public, but he did kill someone,” she said.
Nugent had a reputation around town as being mean and mistreating Tiede, and perhaps pushing him to kill her.
But Debbie Shelton and Kay Haney said that isn’t an excuse for murder.
“He doesn’t deserve any free time because no matter what she was like in person, no one deserves that,” Haney said.
“If he was tired of putting up with her, he could’ve walked away,” Shelton added.
“He hasn’t served even close to enough time,” Cami Thompson added.
Without a change in his sentencing, Tiede won’t become eligible for parole until 2027.
Those 30 years aren’t enough for Carthage resident Ron Glovier.
“They should add some more time,” he said. “I don’t think he should ever get out of jail.