FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Truth About Sociopaths

by

Although his conviction has been overturned three times, Albert Woodfox remains in prison in solitary confinement.

Meanwhile, Bernie Tiede was released from the Telford Unit on May 6, 2014. Convicted in 1999, the former Carthage, Texas mortician was 38 when he fired four shots into the back of his companion, 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent, and stuffed her body in the freezer beneath the Marie Callender pot pies. Bernie indulged, spending Marjorie’s money and lying as to her whereabouts until she was found nine months after her death.

Filmmaker Richard Linklater recognized a dazzling opportunity, one whose tragic elements are overshadowed by comedy. He developed a brilliantly entertaining movie while provoking sympathy for a murderer. Selecting Jack Black to portray Tiede was genius.

The unpopular Marjorie Nugent was despised in the community, where Bernie, a charming, golden-tongued Christian, was revered. Residents of Carthage whose loved ones were prepared for burial by Bernie were consoled to hear that the departed were in a better place or died because God needed another angel. In reality, the town was split, but the film emphasizes Bernie worshippers. One character says Bernie only shot Marjorie four times, when he could’ve shot her five.  Many say she got what she deserved.

The district attorney had the trial moved—so that the victim, Marjorie, was treated fairly.

After I saw Bernie, I Google’d Bernie Tiede, finding his blog. I read about his outreach to other prisoners, the model behavior. Bernie made the most of whatever road or detour he chose. I recall reading on that site that someone (I’m thinking Linklater) expressed, after visiting Tiede in prison, that Bernie didn’t belong with this type of people.

A white, Christian murderer doesn’t belong among murderers?

When I read that Tiede was released to the custody of Linklater, I decided to watch the film again, more critically. I knew Linklater interviewed Tiede—research, you know, for the screenplay and also that Jack Black had visited Bernie.

So here’s the deal: Marjorie Nugent was disliked. Not too long after Bernie embalmed Marjorie’s husband, Bernie initiated the seduction, with flowers, reassuring words, attention. (Really, this is the modus operandi of a sociopath. I know. (My personal s’path arrived, bearing gifts: a grin, pretense, and three bags of potato chips—my favorite nourishment.) Soon, Marjorie and Bernie were having dinner, going out to dinner, taking extravagant vacations, attending cultural events. Bernie’s contribution: his presence, advice, and charisma.  Marjorie was happy, smiling. And Bernie soon was making decisions about Marjorie’s investments, had become not only her traveling companion but also her business manager. Eventually, Marjorie changed her will, naming Bernie her sole beneficiary.

It’s at this moment in the movie that there’s an abrupt change in Marjorie. Suddenly, she’s demanding and controlling. Scene after scene underscores this. Poor beleaguered Bernie’s fed up with the pussy whipping. So he kills Marjorie, hides the evidence, and continues to spend her money on the requirements of his taste as well as making donations to the church and various individuals while saying Marjorie’s unavailable, napping or something. Finally, the police and Marjorie’s family search her house and find the body. Bernie confesses. He’s sorry, soooooo sorry, but he has an excellent rationale: Marjorie was domineering, smothering. His life was no longer his own. He’d “snapped.” Bullshit.

There’s an instant when you understand that much of this story is Tiede’s narrative, told to Linklater. Those Bernie-adoring Carthage residents, forthcoming about their dislike of Marjorie, weren’t witness to the couple’s relationship when they were holding hands at home or on those many trips.

Recently, a judge heard new testimony, that Tiede was sexually abused as a child. The information, along with knowledge (hearsay?) that Marjorie intimidated him, resulted in Tiede’s release. This is special treatment.  Seldom are cases without extenuating circumstances, but these excuses typically aren’t used as justification for acquittal or early release. Tiede’s a free man, owes oodles to Linklater for making the movie. Plus, Tiede was released to Linklater’s welcoming arms to live in a garage apartment owned by Linklater.

If I were the filmmaker, I wouldn’t change my will or allow Bernie Tiede control of my finances.

I’ve told you about a book by Sally Caldwell, Romantic Deception. I thought of it and what I’ve learned about lies and certain revealing signs when I watched Bernie that second time, with different eyes. And I realized that Tiede is self-focused, assuming the center-of-attention position in most situations. If he volunteered to help with a musical production, soon he was singing the lead, soon he was directing.

I searched for that Bernie blog and it’s been taken down, but I found something else, another blog with a quote from Jack Black about meeting Bernie in prison:

It was interesting to see how scary it is. It was especially fascinating to see Bernie in that environment; he didn’t belong there. It’s like, imagine the sweetest guy you know now in the –‘cursing ‘– prison with the most scary tattooed dudes that like to murder people.

Okay, I GET it. Bernie’s friends and acquaintances see sweetness. He’s not a man who likes to murder people, except Bernie did murder someone. He murdered Marjorie, whose fortune he administered. Truth is sociopaths are slick. This particular one oozed a spell over Linklater and Black.

In Oct of 2013, I wrote an article about Herman Wallace. I haven’t forgotten him. He died of liver cancer the day after he was released from prison. Albert Woodfox, Wallace’s friend and member of the Angola 3, with Wallace, has been denied freedom because of his association with the Black Panthers. Yet Bernie Tiede is celebrating somewhere and probably narcissistically believes that the State of Texas Telford Unit in New Boston has lost an angel.

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Minute Musings: On Why the United States Should Launch a Tomahawk Strike on Puerto Rico
Tom Clifford
The Return of “Mein Kampf” … in Japan
Todd Larsen
Concerned About Climate Change? Change Where You Bank!
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Brexit: Britain’s Opening to China?
John Hutchison
Everything Old is New Again: a Brief Retrospectus on Korea and the Cold War
Michael Brenner
The Ghost in the Dream Machine
Yves Engler
The Military Occupation of Haiti
Christopher Brauchli
Guardians of Lies
James Preece
How Labour Can Win the Snap Elections
Cesar Chelala
Preventing Disabilities in the Elderly
Sam Gordon
From We Shall Overcome to Where Have all the Flowers Gone?
Charles Thomson
It’s Still Not Too Late to Deserve Your CBE, Chris Ofili
Louis Proyect
Documentaries That Punch
Charles R. Larson
Review: Vivek Shanbhag’s “Ghachar Ghochar”
David Yearsley
Raiding the Tomb of Lubitsch
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail