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Mistrial Called in Frozen Body Case

October 27, 1998

CARTHAGE, Texas (AP) _ Saying it’s unlikely he’ll be able to seat an impartial jury, a judge has declared a mistrial in the trial of a man who admits killing a wealthy, older woman whose body was hidden in her home freezer for nine months.

About 350 prospective jurors were summoned for the trial of Bernhardt Tiede, 39, who is charged in the killing of 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent. By Monday morning, all but 100 of them had offered valid reasons why they could not serve as jurors, said District Judge Guy Griffin.

When Griffin asked the remaining panelists if they could impartially judge the sensational case, only 40 answered affirmatively.

``That was just the first question,″ Griffin said. ``The attorneys hadn’t even begun their questioning.″

The trial will likely be moved to Center in neighboring Shelby County and could start in late November, attorneys involved in the case told the Houston Chronicle.

In April 1991, Mrs. Nugent decided to leave her fortune of $10 million to Tiede, a move that disinherited her son and four grandchildren _ ``none of whom visit or appear to care about me,″ she wrote in her new will.

Not long afterward, Tiede left the funeral home where he work to serve as her business manager and travel companion.

Residents of this East Texas town of 6,500 say that while Tiede was Mrs. Nugent’s companion, he gave to the poor, started scholarships, pledged money to a church building campaign and ran a fund-raising drive for the Boy Scouts.

But then she disappeared. In 1997, police searching Mrs. Nugent’s home for the missing woman found her body wrapped in a white sheet among packages of frozen corn, pecans and meat. She had been shot in the back four times.

Tiede told police he shot Mrs. Nugent nine months earlier, on Nov. 16, 1996. But under Texas law, a confession is not enough to prove guilt.

If convicted, he faces up to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Tiede also is accused of stealing more from $200,000 from the woman’s estate.

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