ST. LOUIS – Attorneys for the defense and the government presented their closing arguments in a murder-for-hire trial involving a local reality television star accused of plotting to have his nephew murdered for an insurance payout. The jury now has the case and will deliberate.
Federal prosecutors allege James Timothy “Tim” Norman arranged Andre Montgomery Jr.’s murder for $450,000 in insurance benefits, of which Norman was the sole beneficiary.
Norman is the son of Robbie Montgomery, who founded Sweetie Pie’s in 1996. Norman was a co-owner of some of the restaurants by 2011. The Montgomery family starred in the reality show “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” produced by Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.
Jurors were seated just after 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge John Ross read lengthy instructions for the jury before closing statements.
While the jury will decide Norman’s guilt or innocence, Judge Ross will rule on sentencing if necessary.
Andre Montgomery Jr. was shot and killed on the evening of March 14, 2016, outside a home recording studio in the 3900 block of Natural Bridge Road. He was 21. Norman was one of four co-conspirators indicted in the conspiracy.
Travell Hill, the trigger man, was indicted in November 2020 on one count of murder-for-hire and one count of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire. He pleaded guilty in June 2022. He’ll be sentenced on Sept. 20.
Terica Ellis, who worked as an exotic dancer in Memphis, Tennessee, was accused of setting Andre up and tipping off Norman and others about Andre’s location before the murder. Ellis pleaded guilty in July 2022 to one count of murder-for-hire conspiracy. She’ll be sentenced on Oct. 26.
Both Hill and Ellis testified against Norman last week.
Waiel Yaghnam, Norman’s insurance agent, was indicted in August 2020 on one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. He pleaded guilty in July 2022. He’ll be sentenced on Oct. 26.
Prosecutors allege Norman conspired with Yaghnam to get the life insurance policy on Montgomery. That policy contained a $200,000 base and a $200,000 accidental death rider, which would pay out if Montgomery died of anything besides natural causes. The policy also had a $50,000 10-year term rider that would pay out if Montgomery died within a decade of approval. Late Wednesday afternoon, the jury had questions for the judge. They asked to see the life insurance contract and texts between Norman and his lawyer.
Norman testified on his own behalf Tuesday. He was the final witness for the defense. He denied any involvement in the conspiracy. Federal prosecutors cross-examined just two of the defense’s witnesses. After testifying for several hours, Norman’s cross-examination was brief – about 10 minutes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Angie Danis said Norman and Yaghnam filed five fraudulent life insurance policy applications 18 months prior to Andre’s murder. She reminded jurors that Norman admittedly could not remember Andre’s birthday when trying to collect on the life insurance policy after the murder.
Danis said Norman texted Yaghnam “he ain’t gonna make it six months,” referring to his nephew. Those texts were sent exactly five months and 21 days prior to Andre’s death. She told jurors Norman and Yaghnam kept Andre in the dark about the insurance applications.
“This plan doesn’t exist but for Tim Norman’s greed,” she said.
Norman was the only connection between the co-conspirators in the case, Danis said. Not everybody knew every facet of the conspiracy. Yaghnam, Ellis, and Hill only knew enough to do their part. Danis said Norman knew all parts of the plan because he was the one who organized it.