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‘Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s’ Star Found Guilty of ‘executing’ Nephew
A former reality TV star who rose to prominence on a show about his mother’s Missouri soul food business was convicted of ordering a hit on his own nephew in order to cash in on a life insurance policy he had taken out on the young guy.
According to court papers, James “Tim” Norman, 43, was convicted Friday by a St. Louis jury after 17 hours of deliberation on three federal counts of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, murder-for-hire, and conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud. Norman was apprehended in the Jackson, Mississippi area in August 2020, approximately 4.5 years after the death of Andre Montgomery, 21.
Montgomery, an aspiring rapper, was in the studio recording a new tune when he received a phone call from someone requesting him to come outside. Montgomery was slain when he emerged, according to his grandmother and Norman’s mother, restaurateur Robbie “Miss Robbie” Montgomery.
Miss Robbie, the proprietor of popular chainlet Sweetie Pie’s, which counts Beyoncé’s father Mathew among its investors, stated at the time that she believed Montgomery’s death was staged. What she couldn’t know at the time was that Norman, who co-starred with her and Montgomery on the Oprah Winfrey Network show “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” had taken out a mid-six-figure life insurance policy on Montgomery 18 months before—and that he was worth more to Norman dead than alive.
The case garnered widespread attention, both locally and nationally. Gloria Rodriguez, the defense attorney, said she understood right immediately that this trial would be unlike any other she had handled. “I’m not from St. Louis, I’ve never gone, I’ve never heard of the ‘Sweetie Pie’ show, and yet… “I discovered when I was hired that this was a subject that had piqued a lot of people’s interest,” Rodriguez told The Daily Beast on Friday.
When The Daily Beast reached out to the manager of Sweetie’s Upper Crust, the company’s flagship location, she had no reaction. According to the indictment accusing Norman of his nephew’s murder, Norman’s ruse began at the end of October 2014, when he covertly took out a $450,000 life insurance policy on Montgomery.
Montgomery was 20 at the time, and Norman was the single benefactor. Prosecutors stated that he “conspired with… his insurance agent,” who pleaded guilty in July to participate in the plan, to fraudulently get the policy because there was “no financial dependence or relationship” between him and Montgomery.
After withdrawing his original application, Norman was able to get a $200,000 policy on Montgomery’s life, as well as a $200,000 accidental death rider that would be activated if Montgomery died from causes other than natural causes. A $50,000 payout was also included in the policy if Montgomery died within 10 years of the policy’s start.
In a text conversation intercepted by investigators, the insurance agent assured Norman, “You should have it by next Friday.” “They’ll contact you on Monday.” “Pretend you’re Andre.”
Norman continued to apply for new life insurance policies in Montgomery but was turned down each time. Norman began to raise reservations about the idea in September 2015.“Man… I’m concerned about that, man…” He texted the insurance representative. “… Something has shifted.”
According to the feds, Norman had been involved for a few years with Terica Ellis, an exotic dancer in East St. Louis. Norman traveled from Los Angeles to St. Louis on March 13, 2016, where he met Ellis at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel.
Prosecutors claim that after they had intercourse, Norman handed Ellis, 33, a picture of his nephew and asked her if she knew him. Ellis claimed she met him at the club where she worked, Bottom’s Up. Montgomery described himself as a rapper from New Orleans, and the two had swapped phone numbers, according to Ellis.
Norman explained that he had been seeking Montgomery but had been unable to locate him and that he was “upset” with his relative and needed Ellis’ assistance in finding him. According to prosecutors, Ellis, who pleaded guilty in July for her role in Montgomery’s death, agreed.
Norman stated during the trial that he had taken Montgomery under his wing around 18 months before the death. He stated that he had promised to pay his rent and had enrolled him in a nearby music school. He stated, however, that he stopped paying when Montgomery stopped showing up for work or class.
The indictment claims that on March 14, Ellis and Norman “bought pre-paid Tracfone cellular handsets at a Walgreens located in the Central West End section of the City of St. Louis.” According to court documents, Ellis then texted Montgomery, saying, “What’s up hoping to see you before I leave.”
Montgomery texted back, “I’m here at da studio across from da fairground.” Norman had told Travell Hill, a local drug addict, a few days before that he wanted Montgomery dead. Hill volunteered to undertake the job after testifying against Norman and pleading guilty to murder-for-hire in June. Norman informed Hill that Ellis will contact him with additional information.
On March 14, shortly after 7 p.m., Montgomery texted the address to Ellis, who forwarded it to Norman and Hill. Ellis contacted Hill and told him where he might find Montgomery. She enticed Montgomery out of his home studio where he was recording with a phone call. Montgomery proceeded outside to a car, spoke with someone in the vehicle Hill presumed was Ellis, and then began walking back into the studio. Hill called over to Montgomery, who began approaching him as Hill fired multiple shots from a.380 revolver.
Ellis contacted Norman and began driving home to Memphis immediately after Montgomery was shot and murdered. Norman traveled back to Los Angeles early the next morning, arranging for a mutual contact to deliver Hill a bag containing $5,000 as payment and to “keep your lips shut.”
According to the feds, Norman paid Ellis $10,000 in cash, which she divided into many deposits at various banks throughout Memphis. Norman attempted to cash in the life insurance policy he had taken out on his nephew on March 18, 2016, four days after Montgomery’s death. He was repeatedly denied, eventually engaging a lawyer in 2018 to try to get the insurance company to pay up. Norman never received anything.
On Friday evening, co-counsel Michael Leonard told The Daily Beast, “Not a penny.” Prosecutors described it as a crime involving “significant calculation and forethought” in court records. Norman’s troubled past was also brought up in court, with prosecutors citing a previous conviction for armed robbery. Norman testified in his own defense, saying he accused Montgomery of robbing his mother’s house before fleeing to New Orleans. He asserted, however, that he never hired someone to hurt him.
During closing statements on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angie Danis said, “The defendant recognized his opportunity to cash in and he tried.” “He executed his own nephew.” After the event, Leonard told The Daily Beast that he questioned the authenticity of Ellis and Hill’s claims, calling them both untrustworthy. Leonard also stated that he called Norman to the stand in his own defense, “which I don’t generally do,” and that he “performed pretty well.”
The worry is that you’ll put your guy on and expose him to a deluge,” Leonard explained. “But he didn’t really drink any water.” So we were feeling fairly good coming into closing arguments.” During deliberations, the jury requested that numerous pieces of evidence, including Norman’s flight records, phone data, and text messages, be reviewed again. Norman was found guilty after a protracted trial, which “shook” him “to the core,” according to Leonard.
This is a horrible story,” Rodriguez remarked, noting that she had just returned from a jailhouse call with Norman. “There aren’t any winners here.” According to the Associated Press, U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming was “very, very delighted” with the decision. Norman faces up to life in jail. His sentencing date is set for December 15. Leonard and Rodriguez have stated that they intend to file an appeal.