'Welcome to Sweetie Pie' star Tim Norman found guilty in murder-for-hire plot to kill nephew Andre Montgomery Jr

Tim Norman later tried to cash a $450,000 life-insurance policy taken out on his nephew Andre Montgomery Jr months earlier, according to the jury

'Welcome to Sweetie Pie' star Tim Norman found guilty in murder-for-hire plot to kill nephew Andre Montgomery Jr
Andre Montgomery Jr and Tim Norman in 'Welcome to Sweetie Pie' (YouTube/OWN)
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ST LOUIS, MISSOURI: James 'Tim' Norman, the star of 'Welcome to Sweetie Pie,' was on Friday, September 16, found guilty of orchestrating the murder-for-hire scheme that resulted in the death of his nephew and co-star in 2016. Tim was convicted of two federal murder-for-hire counts and one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in the shooting death of his nephew, Andre Montgomery Jr, in March 2016, stated a press release from the US Attorney's Office Eastern District of Missouri.

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After almost 17 hours of deliberation, the jury found Tim guilty on all charges. The panel concluded that on March 14, 2016, Tim hired two people to murder Andre, who was 21 years old. They concluded that Tim sought to cash in a $450,000 life insurance policy on his nephew that was taken out months earlier. According to the prosecution, Tim hired an exotic dancer, Terica Ellis, for $10,000 to entice Andre to the crime scene. They further claimed that Tim paid $5,000 to another individual, Travell Anthony Hill, to kill Andre. The suspected shooter and the dancer both gave depositions against the reality TV personality.

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Michael Leonard, Tim's defense counsel, said in his closing arguments that the murderous scheme outlined by the prosecution was a “made-up theory.”

Former workers of Sweetie Pie's and other character witnesses were brought by the defense to testify that Tim and his nephew were close. Michael contended that Terica felt obliged to testify to receive a lighter sentence, and questioned the veracity of the evidence from Tim's alleged co-conspirators. “In making life’s most important decisions, would you make that based upon a stripper who said she looked in your face and lied to you?” Michael voiced.

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He also underlined that the gunman, Travell, whom prosecutors referred to as Tim's "hired gun," stated, "Nobody else should be responsible for my actions but me. I looked up to Tim as a mentor." Travell stated that he purchased a gun and murdered Andre after learning from a mutual contact that Tim would pay to have his nephew murdered. Travell said he was paid $5,000 after the murder by another guy, Darryl Howard, who testified he did so at Tim's request. Michael underlined that Travell testified at the time that he was a habitual drug user and was "hopped up on drugs that day."

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On September 13, the penultimate day of testimony, Tim took the unprecedented choice for a criminal defendant to take the witness stand in his defense. He testified before the jury that he urged Terica and Travell to track down his nephew and confront him about a recent break-in at his mother's house, but he insisted that he never paid them or ordered them to harm his nephew. Andre fled St. Louis after a June 2015 burglary at Robbie Montgomery's residence resulted in the theft of at least $220,000 in cash, jewelry, and other items. Tim said before jurors that he and his mother hired a private investigator to track down and confront his nephew about the theft.

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Andre Montgomery Jr. in 'Welcome to Sweetie Pie's' (YouTube/OWN)
Andre Montgomery Jr. in 'Welcome to Sweetie Pie's' (YouTube/OWN)

Tim testified that he brought Andre to St Louis, paid his rent, and enrolled him in music school around 18 months before the killing. He said that once Andre stopped attending work and school, he cut him off financially. Tim also testified that he took out the life insurance policy on his nephew to provide Waiel Rebhi Yaghnam, a longstanding client of the family eateries, more business. In the case, Waiel pled guilty in July to conspiracy to conduct murder-for-hire and wire fraud.

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Tim acquired several life insurance policies on Andre in 2014, naming himself as the sole beneficiary. These plans include a $250,000 life insurance policy from Americo Insurance Company, as well as two $200,000 and $250,000 policies from Foresters Insurance. According to the lawsuit, he sought to acquire new coverage via Foresters Insurance in 2015, but was rejected.

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Prosecutor Angie Danis warned jurors not to believe Tim's testimony in her rebuttal. "The defendant sat up there for four hours and spun tales because that’s what he does," Angie explained. “There’s about 45 reasons why you can’t trust a word this man says.”

Angie stressed that all the suspected co-conspirators' evidence was supported in court by texts, call records, and location data. "He scripted a show to portray an image of wealth and success that wasn’t real," Angie alleged. Tim, she claims, crafted "an image of being a mentor and a father figure to all these people, but it’s fiction" throughout his trial.

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According to the Associated Press, prosecutors will not pursue the death penalty, although Tim may receive a life sentence. On December 15, that decision will be made. The verdict on Friday puts an end to a case that has drawn attention from around the country for years. Tim initiated the murder plot to be paid, according to the prosecution's closing argument by Assistant US Attorney Angie Danis. Angie claimed, "Not only did he know, he was the architect of this plan. This plan doesn’t exist but for Tim Norman’s greed."

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Tim and Andre were both significantly featured in the OWN reality show, which aired for nine seasons. It followed Robbie Montgomery, Tim's mother and Andre's grandmother, and those who assisted her in running a chain of Sweetie Pie's soul-food restaurants around the region.

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