ST. LOUIS – A federal jury has convicted Timothy Norman, a man at the center of a 2016 murder-for-hire plot against his own nephew.
James Timothy “Tim” Norman was found guilty Friday of two counts of federal murder-for-hire and one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in the investigation.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri said Norman, a co-owner of Sweetie Pie’s soul food restaurants in the St. Louis area, took out a $450,000 life insurance policy in 2015 on his nephew, Andre Montgomery Jr., with Norman named as the sole beneficiary.
Norman is the son of Robbie Montgomery, who founded Sweetie Pie’s in 1996. The restaurant and Montgomery family were the subjects of a reality show produced by Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network called, “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s.”
Andre Montgomery Jr. was shot and killed in the 3900 block of Natural Bridge Road just after 8 p.m. on March 14, 2016. He was 21. Norman was one of four people indicted in the conspiracy over his murder.
The trial lasted nearly two weeks, consisting of three days of jury deliberations.
“This is justice,” says Kaylin Griggs, the older sister of Andre Montgomery Jr. “I’m glad they put that monster behind bars for life. He ruined multiple lives, not just ours, but multiple lives. It’s some peace, but my brother is not going to come back while he’s still in jail eating commissary or whatever. But my Mother got some peace. We knew it was him.”
“On behalf of Mr. Norman, we’re extremely surprised and disappointed in the outcome,” says Mike Leonard, defense attorney from Leonard Trial Lawyers in Chicago. “We respect the work of the jury, the jury worked very hard on this case.”
Norman’s lawyer Mike Leonard says they plan to appeal Friday’s verdict.
“Of course, a lot of the individuals on the jury pool had extensive exposure to the show or extensive exposure to Tim and Andre,” says Leonard. “That was a factor in the selection process. There were a lot of jurors who were familiar with Tim and Andre. That made it difficult.”
As jurors discussed the case, they had a series of questions for the judge over the last few days. This included asking to see 7,000 pages of evidence detailing Tim Norman’s cell phone records; why there was no note mentioned of the cooperation agreement with the insurance agent, Darrell Howard; and evidence submitted by the agent.
The defense also asked the judge for a mistrial, which was denied. Before deciding to pause deliberations. The jury asked for clarification about the “difference between conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire or the crime of murder-for-hire.”
Travell Hill, the convicted trigger man, and Terica Ellis, accused of setting Andre up and tipping off Norman and others about Andre’s location prior to the murder, both testified in court last week on events leading up to Andre’s death. Based on testimony and evidence in court, the prosecution proved Norman met with Hill, weeks before the murder and agreed to pay him $5,000.
Phone records provided insight into a conflicting claim Norman made about where he was when Andre was killed. During a conversation cited in court with insurance agent Waiel Yaghnam in 2018, Norman said he was in California, not St. Louis, at the time of Andre’s death. Cell phone towers tracked the general location of a prepaid phone assigned to Norman in the area around Lambert Airport during the timeframe Andre was fatally shot.
Phone records also reveal extensive communication with Ellis and Hill throughout the day before Andre died. Prosecutors also cited a chilling text months before his death in which Norman said his nephew “ain’t gonna be around much longer.”
In federal court, Ellis testified that Norman told her his nephew had stolen money and jewelry from his mother’s house and he wanted to get her belongings back. She accepted a $10,000 offer to help find Andre, though says she was not expecting Andre to be harmed in the process of meeting him.
Robbie Montgomery’s home was burglarized in June 2015. More than $200,000 in cash and other valuables were stolen from the residence. Norman pointed the finger at Andre months before his death, though testimony given in court reiterates he wanted to get back at Andre after the burglary.
FBI agents never confirmed who committed the burglary. However, local authorities had cleared Andre of wrongdoing in the burglary.
Hill 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.
Ellis, an exotic dancer living in Memphis, Tennessee, was accused in tracking Andre’s location prior to the murder. She pleaded guilty in July 2022 to one count of murder-for-hire conspiracy.
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. Both Ellis and Yaghnam will be sentenced on Oct. 26.
Meanwhile, Norman is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 15.