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HENDERSON (CBSDFW.COM/AP)A sentencing trial is underway for the East Texas mortician whose murder case inspired the dark comedy movie “Bernie.”

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Bernie Tiede was convicted in 1999 of killing Marjorie Nugent, a widow more than 40 years his senior whom he befriended in Carthage, a town of about 7,000 about 150 miles east of Dallas. The two met at Nugent’s husband’s funeral in 1990. The pair took lavish vacations abroad, and Tiede became known around town for the gifts he gave himself and local residents — using Nugent’s money.

Carthage - Carthage Texas

In 1996, Tiede shot Nugent four times in the back with a .22-caliber rifle, then hid her body in a freezer next to packages of frozen meat, pecans and corn. He carried on for nine months as if Nugent was still alive before authorities searched her home and found her body.

Tiede was sentenced to life in prison but was freed after a prosecutor said he believed Tiede deserved a reduced prison sentence because of abuse he suffered as a child. He had served 17 years in prison for the murder.

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(credit: CBS NEWS))

(credit: CBS NEWS))

Jurors could now send him back to prison or let him remain free.

According to a North Texas newspaper, prosecutor Lisa Tanner argued Wednesday that Tiede “was stealing Marjorie Nugent blind, and he was doing it cleverly.”

But defense attorney Mike DeGeurin said Nugent controlled Tiede and had a “mean streak and an abusive streak.”

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