MADISON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DETENTION CENTER
James Timothy Norman's trial is set to start the first week of September.
The lawyer representing Tim Norman in the high-profile Welcome to Sweetie Pie's
murder-for-hire case says that he and his client, "fully intend to proceed to trial."
"We fully expect the government is not going to be able to meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt," adds attorney Michael Leonard, a prominent trial lawyer out of Chicago.
Federal authorites say Norman masterminded a murder-for-hire conspiracy that took the life of St. Louis reality TV star, Andre Montgomery Jr.
Montgomery was Norman's nephew. The two were cast members on Welcome to Sweetie Pie's
, a reality TV show starring Robbie Montgomery, a famed singer for Ike and Tina Turner. She was grandmother to Montgomery and mother to Norman. The show documented the comedy and drama around Robbie’s family-run restaurant in the Grove, Sweetie Pie’s. It debuted on the Oprah Winfrey Network in October 2011 and ran for nine seasons, winning two NAACP Image awards.
On March 14, 2016, Montgomery was shot and killed outside a recording studio on Natural Bridge Road where the aspiring rapper had been working on his music. The gunman, Travell Hill, pleaded guilty in federal court in early June. On Friday two other defendants, Terica Ellis and Waiel Yaghnam, both pleaded guilty to playing different roles in the murder plot. Norman is the only remaining defendant in the case to not plead guilty.
Yaghnam stated in his plea agreement that in October 2014 he helped Norman try to fraudulently obtain $450,000 worth of life insurance policies on Montgomery.
In the early 2000s, Yaghnam was known for producing chart-topping hits for Nelly, including the 2001 hit “#1.” But he had since become an insurance agent.
According to her plea agreement, Ellis had been in a relationship with Norman for several years preceding Montgomery’s murder. She also stated she knew the victim from her time working at the Bottom's Up strip club in Brooklyn, Illinois. Montgomery had told her he was a rapper from New Orleans and the two exchanged phone numbers.
Later, at a rendezvous between Norman and Ellis, Norman told her that he was trying to find his nephew and requested her help doing so, Ellis' plea agreement says.
On March 14, 2016, Ellis texted Montgomery while he was recording music at the studio on Natural Bridge Road. She told him to come outside and meet her.
When he came outside, Travell Hill shot and killed Montgomery.
As part of his guilty plea last month, Hill acknowledged that "the death of Andre Montgomery resulted from the conspiracy on March 14, 2016." He said that on the night of Montgomery's death, he lay in wait for Montgomery outside the studio on Natural Bridge Road. He watched as Montgomery came outside and spoke to someone in a car, most likely Ellis. As Montgomery walked back inside, Hill said something to him to stop him. Hill then approached Montgomery and "discharged his firearm multiple times." Montgomery died of his injuries soon thereafter in the home recording studio.
Ellis stated in her plea agreement that after Montgomery's death, she called Norman and then traveled immediately back to Memphis, her hometown.
In the days after the shooting, Ellis says that she accepted $10,000 cash from Norman.
The immediate aftermath of Montgomery's death saw Norman playing the part of grieving uncle. In a 2016 Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s
episode, Norman and his mother Robbie Montgomery (Andre Montgomery’s grandmother) visited the area on Natural Bridge Road where Andre was killed. Norman noted that he hadn’t been back to the location since his nephew’s death. “Really, I’ve been avoiding it,” he said.
Norman is currently detained awaiting trial. His attorney says that he sees him frequently.
"He's a very optimistic person and looking forward to his chance to go to trial," Leonard says.
Norman is charged with two counts of murder-for-hire conspiracy and two counts of wire-and-mail-fraud conspiracy.
The trial is set to start Tuesday, September 6.