ST. LOUIS (AP) — A former star of the St. Louis-based reality show “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” testified Tuesday that he was not involved in the murder of his nephew.
James “Tim” Norman, 43, is accused of hiring two people to kill 21-year-old Andre Montgomery in March 2016 and then trying to cash in on a $450,000 life insurance policy that he had taken out his nephew in the months preceding his death.
Norman, 43, told jurors he helped his nephew move to St. Louis about 18 months before his death and supported him financially because he was trying to be careful of Montgomery, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“He’s my brother’s child, so I did my best to step in and be a father figure,” Norman told the jury. “I did my best to show him right from wrong and tried to be a friend at the same time.”
Norman and Montgomery starred in “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” an OWN network reality show that was based in a popular soul-food company founded by Norman’s mother and Montgomery’s grandmother, Robbie Montgomery.
Prosecutors said Norman paid an exotic dancer, Terica Ellis, $10,000 to lure his nephew to the site where he was shot and paid Travell Anthony Hill $5,000 to shoot Montgomery.
Ellis and Hill both pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme.
Norman testified on Tuesday that he took out his nephew’s life insurance policy to give business to a longtime client of the family restaurants, Waiel Rebhi Yaghnam.
Yaghnam pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and wire fraud in that case.
Montgomery left St. Louis after at least $220,000 in cash, jewelry and other items was stolen in a June 2015 burglary at Robbie Montgomery’s home.
Norman told jurors he and his mother hired a private detective to find his nephew, but he had no intention of harming him.
He said he flew to St. Louis on March 14, 2016 — the day Montgomery died — as part of regular stops to do work at Sweetie Pie’s.
He said he only paid Ellis $1,000 for sex and $2,000 to help him set up shop in Memphis. He admitted to asking Ellis to help him find Montgomery but never paid her to do so.
Norman testified that he hooked up Ellis and Hill to find Montgomery because he wanted to recover the items stolen from Robbie Montgomery’s home. He said he never paid Hill to shoot his nephew and did not know he was the shooter for years after his nephew died.
Robbie Montgomery, the main character of ‘Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,’ appeared in court on Monday and Tuesday in defense of his son, but declined to comment on the case. The defense originally intended to call him as a character witness. But prosecutors successfully objected to his testimony as irrelevant to the case.
Norman faces two counts of murder-for-hire and one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.